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Hospitals plead for public to get vaccinated amid stark COVID-19 patient numbers

Cone Health, Novant Health, and Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist say they're slammed with patients amid the omicron surge. They're begging folks to get vaccinated.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Triad health care workers are pleading with the community to get vaccinated amid a stark increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. They say they're slammed with patients and short-staffed because they're also dealing with their own employees getting infected. 

The situation is so dire, all three major hospital systems in the Triad held a joint news conference about it Monday morning. Cone Health, Novant Health, and Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist all said they're seeing more COVID-19 patients, leaving fewer beds for non-COVID-19 patients. The majority of COVID-19 patients coming in for care are unvaccinated, health officials said. 

  • Find a vaccine or booster near you. 
  • Everyone ages five and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Booster shots are recommended for all adults. 
  • Kids as young as 12 can get a booster shot if their second Pfizer dose was more than five months ago. 

“We’re really begging you to get vaccinated. We’ve been at this for over two years, and our healthcare workers, they’re tired. They don’t really want to be heroes anymore. They want to go back to being moms and dads, brothers and sisters," Dr. Stan Fuller, Chief Medical Officer for Novant Health, said on Friday. 

What if you were recently infected and still haven't gotten vaccinated? How long should you wait? It depends. 

“If you have gotten COVID…it’s about a month you should wait [to get vaccinated],” Dr. Julie Freischlag, Chief Executive Officer of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist said. “You still need to get the vaccine. The virus itself does not protect you adequately as we go forward, certainly with all these new variants.”

Dr. Freischlag said once your COVID-19 symptoms improve and you feel better, you should talk to your doctor about scheduling a vaccine appointment. The CDC's website also advises this, saying, "People with known current SARS-CoV-2 infection should defer vaccination at least until recovery from the acute illness (if symptoms were present) has been achieved and criteria to discontinue isolation have been met." 

The CDC doesn't give a specific wait-time in between infection and getting vaccinated. 

Rising hospitalizations

The hospitals' warnings come as North Carolina labs reported 3,850 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals statewide as of Monday - up by more than 1,000 since one week ago. 

Cone Health reports more than 78% of their COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated as of Monday. Since vaccines became widely available last year, health care workers have consistently reported the trend that the large majority of people going to the hospital with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. 

New year, record-setting metrics

State labs confirmed more than 18,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday. Those new cases made up more than 31% of recent tests. The state's target is 5% or lower to know the spread is slowing. All 100 North Carolina counties are back in the CDC's red zone, indicating the highest level of spread. 

Who's testing positive? 

NCDHHS reports 40% of recent cases - four in every 10 people testing positive - are between the ages of 25 and 49. 

The next-largest group is the 50 to 64 age range with nearly 20% of cases. 

Vaccine rates slowing down

Even as omicron surges, vaccination rates have slowed. We've only seen a 1% improvement in recent days for everyone eligible for the vaccine. 

Of Guilford County's fully-vaccinated population (58.2%), only 15.8% have received boosters. 

Vaccine rates statewide: 

  • 18+ with at least one dose: 74%
  • 18+ fully-vaccinated: 70%
  • 12+ with at least one dose: 72%
  • 12+ fully-vaccinated: 67%
  • 5+ with at least one dose: 67%
  • 5+ fully-vaccinated: 63%
  • Total population with at least one dose: 63%
  • Total population fully-vaccinated: 59%

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