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'People should be very concerned' | Cone Health coronavirus hospitalizations rapidly increasing

Thursday was another record breaking day of hospitalizations for Cone Health. Community leaders are looking at ways to slow the spread.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Cone Health continues to hit records, as more and more people are hospitalized for coronavirus.

Cone Health reported treating 129 COVID patients Thursday morning — its highest total yet. A spokesperson initially said the COVID hospital at Green Valley was at capacity but later issued a correction, clarifying the cases are spread out across other Cone campuses. 

The Green Valley campus has a capacity for 116 people and still had bed space. Health experts said more patients will come and it's all happening too fast.

Local leaders said more steps may be needed to slow the spread.

"The behavior of our neighbors and community members changes in a way that is not driving COVID away, it is increasing the number of COVID patients in our hospitals," Cone Health Chief Physician Executive Doctor Bruce Swords said.

A community group-some call it a COVID task force--of county leaders met Monday to talk about steps that can be taken.

Those leaders include Dr. Swords, Guilford County Public Health Director Doctor Iulia Vann, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras, community business leaders, the mayors of Greensboro and High Point and others.

The group is considering steps ranging from creating public service announcements to enforcing fines on businesses not following Phase Three rules.

"We have to give the health director authority, in order to levy fines to restaurants who are intentionally not abiding by the governor's ordinance," Guilford County Commissioner for District 8 Skip Alston said.

State rules give county health departments the ability to enforce misdemeanors and orders of abatement for mask and social distancing violations at businesses.

Alston leads the community group and wants to give Dr. Vann the ability to impose fines, which she said would be a less drastic step than the options the health department already has.

"We don't want another shutdown and that's what we want to avoid," Alston said.

Those fines are still being discussed and would have to be voted on by the county board of commissioners. 

It could be weeks before a decision on that is made but we can all practice the Three W's now to slow the spread.

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