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COVID-19 hospitalizations rising at Cone Health, nearly all patients are unvaccinated

There were seven people fighting COVID-19 at Cone Health at the beginning of July. There are now more than 50. The hospital expects it to be 100 soon.
Credit: Cone Health
A health care worker helps a patient in the ICU.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Cone Health expects to care for more than 100 COVID-19 patients sometime in August. 

The health care system said there were seven people with COVID-19 in Cone Health hospitals on July 2. As of midnight on Monday, that number was 52. 

Cone Health officials said most patients coming in with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated. A Cone Health spokesperson said since January 1, 2021, 97% of COVID-19 hospitalizations have been among unvaccinated people. Less than 1% have been fully vaccinated. The patients that ended up in the ICU or died from the virus were all unvaccinated. 

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Credit: Cone Health
Cone Health hospital data shows most people coming in with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Cone Health said the rise in hospitalizations is because of the new delta variant - it's far more contagious and can make people sicker than the original form of the virus. 

“A couple of months ago, we would expect someone with COVID-19 to infect two or three other people,” says Michael DeWitt, senior data scientist, Cone Health. “The Delta variant doubles or triples that. It is likely as contagious as the mumps and chicken pox.”

The high infection rate means Cone Health could see COVID-19 hospitalizations double every 10-14 days. That has DeWitt predicting more than 100 people in the hospital with the virus this month. 

“That’s why we are really pushing vaccination among those who are eligible and everyone to mask up,” says Dr. Cynthia Snider, infectious disease specialist, Cone Health. “We have become complacent with wearing masks; we are gathering in large groups with others who may be unvaccinated, which is risky. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, remember to test 3-5 days later and self-quarantine. It’s time to protect ourselves, or it is going to be a difficult fall.”

Below is a look at unvaccinated patients at Cone Health. The largest age group being hospitalized with COVID-19 is 50-59. 

Unvaccinated hospitalizations:

  • Age 20-29: 3 (6.5%)
  • Age 30-39: 7 (15%)
  • Age 40-49: 2 (4.3%)
  • Age 50-59: 11 (24%)
  • Age 60-69: 9 (20%)
  • Age 70-79: 6 (13%)
  • Age 80+: 8 (17%)

Cone Health said there is one fully vaccinated adult in the hospital.

Cone Health said they have had about a dozen fully or partially vaccinated people in the ICU this year and that a few did die. A spokesperson said it is not known if they had any comorbidities.

Other Triad hospitals said they're seeing a similar pattern where vaccinated people are not getting as sick.

"We are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, particularly in our hospitals that serve communities with lower vaccination rates," a Novant Health spokesperson said. "In fact, more than 90 percent of COVID-19 patients in our hospitals today are not vaccinated, and the average age of admitted patients is the lowest it has been since the pandemic started. As the Delta variant continues to spread, we strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated, including those that feel their age or health makes them lower risk for contacting a serious case of COVID-19."

Wake Forest Baptist Health Infectious Disease Expert said breakthrough COVID infections are very rare for vaccinated people but they do bring concerns for those they come in contact with.

"It does look like people who are vaccinated who get a breakthrough infection can transmit it, and the most worrisome would be to people who are unvaccinated or otherwise vulnerable," Dr. Ohl said.

 Dr. Ohl said the wave is very taxing for healthcare workers who were hoping vaccinations would keep people from needing to be hospitalized.

"I can sum it up we're kind of sick of it. We're ready to get this behind us. The community at large can help do that. Get vaccinated, let's put Delta in the ground and move on," Dr. Ohl said.

A look at COVID-19 in North Carolina:

Seventeen months into the pandemic, and it feels like North Carolina is taking one step forward and two steps back. 

New COVID-19 cases are spiking statewide, hospitalizations are rising, but vaccinations are barely budging. 

Labs confirmed nearly 2,200 cases on Monday - about 1,000 less than the previous day. That's good, but those cases made up 10.6% of total cases, which is double the state's target of 5% or lower, to know the spread is slowing. 

Hospitalizations went up for the 23rd day in a row. More than 1,300 people are fighting COVID-19 in hospitals statewide. 

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