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'The more COVID cases we have, the fewer non-COVID cases we can treat' | Analysts predict Cone Health will exceed hospital capacity by January 21

Cone Health leaders shared a hospitalization projection graph - visually explaining why it's so important stop the spread of COVID-19 - as the system nears capacity.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The number of people hospitalized in our state for COVID-19 is at an all time high. This statistic has continued to rise for months now - reaching more than 3,600 patients on Monday, January 4. 

Cone Health leaders warn that without the community's full support to stop the spread of the deadly virus, they will exceed their hospital capacity on January 21st.

"We have enough experience now with COVID that we can make these predictions pretty accurately," said Richard Pro, Chief Data and Analytics Officer for Cone Health. 

A newly-released hospitalization projection chart from the hospital system shows health care staff will need to divert their attention to tackle a mounting number of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks and months. Leaders say, it's not merely a possibility. 

"Unfortunately it's accelerating, so our estimate is it could be close to 400 cases by the end of this month," said Dr. Cynthia Snider, an infectious disease specialist with Cone Health. 

"The reality is that the more COVID-19 cases we have, beyond a certain point, the fewer non-COVID cases we can treat in a given day," said Pro.

He explains that exceeding capacity means longer wait times, a pause on certain - often elective - procedures, and a delay on getting a hospital bed, even if you don't have coronavirus.

"We're just now at the point where we're beginning to see a surge generated from Christmas and Hanukkah, and now you'll begin to see the additional surge coming from New Year's activities starting on top of it," Pro said, "Even if we cut off any new disease today, you're still going to see growth in the numbers of the next weeks, if not months."

Credit: Cone Health, WFMY News 2

These hospitalization projections are grim, and it's not only Cone Health facing this issue. Pro advises everyone to get on board with wearing a mask and practicing social distancing now, because although the vaccine is a long-term solution - it won't make a dent in short-term numbers.

"In terms of turning that curve and avoiding a capacity issue - the vaccine won't do it. There's just not enough of it out there to make that much of a difference."