CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide and in the Carolinas is leading to worker shortages in most industries. It’s especially tough for healthcare workers who are needed now more than ever but are also the most exposed.
Novant Health’s emergency department is being slammed with COVID-19 patients right now. The nurse manager, Julian Carranza, was just out for the last week with the virus himself. He said when the omicron surge started, he figured it was only a matter of time.
Carranza has been on the front lines of the pandemic in Novant Health’s emergency department for the past two years. Despite being surrounded by COVID-19, he made it through the alpha and delta surges without getting sick.
“I was very proud that, I didn’t catch it this long, like I was bragging about it,” he told WCNC Charlotte.
But omicron changed that.
“It just shows how contagious this variant is,” Carranza said. “I’m vaccinated, I’m boosted, I wear a mask at all times at work and somehow it got me.”
He came home from work on a Sunday with a sore throat. He thought it was from yelling names into the crowded waiting room but when he spiked a fever overnight, he knew it was likely COVID-19. He tested positive a few days later.
“It hit me hard,” he said.
Based on new CDC guidance he was able to go back to work this week, after a shorter isolation period. It’s helping to offset challenging staffing shortages.
“Staffing is a challenge whenever we have a few nurses out with COVID," Carranza said. "We are human and we get sick too and we are exposed more than a lot of people."
He is urging more people to do their part to lessen the burden on the hospitals.
“I felt very sick but I think it could’ve been a lot worse if I was not vaccinated,” he said. “That vaccine and that boost, I think, is the way we can overcome a lot of this.”
Carranza said they will not turn people away from the emergency department, but they are asking people not to go there for testing. There are several other sites where someone can get a test quicker and not take up resources that someone with a true medical emergency need.