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It looks like a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations, but it's not

Don't be alarmed. Hospitalizations aren't spiking in North Carolina, but the federal guidelines for how hospitals report COVID-19 patients are changing.

RALEIGH, N.C. — We want to put coronavirus data into context for you, and that involves looking into what might cause sudden spikes in numbers or changes in trajectory. 

You may have noticed an increase in hospitalizations in North Carolina on the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website Friday, but it isn't necessarily because of a spike in patients. Take a look: 

  • Hospitalizations on Wednesday were 1,267
  • Hospitalizations on Thursday were 1,423

It looks like 156 more people went to the hospital, but that's not the case. 

The NCDHHS shared a memo saying hospitalizations will increase starting Friday because the federal guidelines for counting COVID-19 hospitalizations are changing.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously required hospitals to report COVID-19 patients only when under isolation precautions - typically 21 days. 

Now, the CDC requires hospitals to report COVID-19 patients for their entire length of stay. 

For example, if a patient passes the 21-day mark and is no longer contagious, he or she would still count in the COVID-19 hospitalization numbers until discharge. 

The change will affect hospitalization counts nationwide. 

This second note is specific to only North Carolina and is a one-time issue. 

The NCDHHS is changing the time that it pulls data from the COVID dashboard. 

So, Friday's data covers only 10 hours instead of the usual 24. 

That means Friday's cases appear lower because they happened over a shorter time frame. 

On Friday, NCDHHS reported 1,779 new COVID cases - more than a 1,000 case difference from Thursday's 2,893 new cases. 

North Carolina reached a record case day on Wednesday, Nov. 11 with more than 3,100 new cases. 

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