Tuesday, November 28, 2023

New Hanover County Covid-19 update, governor releases letter to North Carolinians [Free]

Gov. Cooper modified a stay-at-home order, which goes into effect today, Dec. 11, at 5 p.m. He also released an op-ed to all North Carolinians (see below). (Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY—Covid-19 cases keep rising since the pandemic swept the nation in March. Friday, in New Hanover County, 8,034 cases and 67 deaths have been reported to the New Hanover County Health Department.

Five new deaths were reported this week, with patients ranging from ages 50 to 80 and having underlying health conditions. Public health is closely monitoring eight outbreaks and three clusters as well.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which serves patients in a seven-county area, is reporting treatment of 886 Covid-19 patients to date. It discharged 722, while 122 have died, and 46 on average have been hospitalized as of the data released on Friday, Dec. 4.

But some community members are asking: How many beds are really available at our local hospitals and healthcare facilities?

Data released from UNC’s Cecil Shep Center for Health Services Research gives an idea on how long hospitals in North Carolina cities can last before being overburdened. The research analyzed how many weeks it would take, in the current state of Covid cases rising, to reach or exceed acute or ICU capacity in Greenville, Wilmington, Fayetteville, the Triangle, the Triad, Asheville and Charlotte.

It shows the Wilmington region at 11.9 weeks out before reaching acute capacity, with 71 beds being occupied and 210 beds open. It’s growing at a 12.3% rate.

The ICU unit has about 8.8 weeks before reaching capacity, with 18 beds taken and 40 open. It’s growing at a 14.3% rate.

The NHC Health Department reported its highest case count in a single day last week, Dec. 4, with 122 reported. The second-highest local count, 120, since March happened just three days ago on Dec. 8. Ages 25-49 (36.01%) and 18-24 (28.3%) have experienced the most cases in New Hanover County.

The graph of ICU beds available in Wilmington, as studied by UNC’s Cecil Shep Center for Health Services. (Port City Daily/Courtesy of CSCHS)

On Tuesday Gov. Roy Cooper announced additional restrictions beginning Friday at 5 p.m., including a modified stay-at-home order from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. (including exceptions for essential workers). Businesses that are not considered essential are required to close at 10 p.m. and onsite alcohol consumption sales are required to cease at 9 p.m.

RELATED: Going into effect Friday: Gov. Roy Cooper enacts stay-at-home order, shortens business, alcohol sale hours [Free]

Cooper released an announcement to North Carolinians Friday morning, urging them to stay vigilant on their path to health and to not let their guards down, as the state inches closer to receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

NHRMC will be receiving 2,900 doses of the vaccine in the coming days, with hopes of administering it to its frontline healthcare workers caring for Covid-19 patients as early as next week. The vaccine, which mandates two doses at least 21 days apart, will be distributed in four phases, with the order then going to first responders, longterm care and congregate living staff and residents, and people with two or more chronic health conditions that are considered high-risk with Covid-19.

“We encourage our residents to learn about the vaccinations and the rigorous process for FDA approval,” said health and human services director Donna Fayko in a press release. “Hesitancy is understandable, but the trials and approval process are no different than that of other life-saving vaccines we have.”

Gov. Cooper said twice in his press conferences over the last two weeks, “When it’s my turn to get this vaccine, I’ll be ready to roll up my sleeve.”

Read Cooper’s letter below:

Help is on the Way. But First We Have to Dig Deep

When I announced North Carolina had its first known COVID case on March 3rd, most of us didn’t expect to be living like this in December. Instead of preparing for beloved holiday traditions, we’re making virtual gathering plans and mourning the loss of more than 290,000 Americans from COVID-19. 

As tough as this is, especially at the holidays, the sacrifices we’re making now will ensure that our loved ones can gather again at next year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas tables. 

Our COVID-19 numbers are dire, and we need North Carolinians to take this virus seriously. A month ago, daily case counts above 3,000 were troubling. Recently, we’ve had several days with more than 6,000 new daily cases. Hospitals and health care workers are feeling the strain. More than 80% of North Carolina counties have been designated as red or orange, meaning their community spread is way too high.

Until vaccines are widely available, we have a few tools that we know can keep people safe while also boosting our economy — wearing our masks, staying socially distant and keeping any gatherings small and outdoors, or better yet, online. 

We have put in place a new, modified Stay at Home Order that requires people to be home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. This builds on strong safety protocols like the mask requirement and capacity limits we already have in place, and we will continue watching our trends to see if more is needed. 

We don’t want to implement tighter restrictions. Too many small businesses and families are struggling to make ends meet as it is. They need significantly more financial support from the federal government, and I’ve repeatedly urged Congress and the President to pass a stimulus package that helps families and businesses before 2020 ends. 

But our top priority will always be saving lives. We’ll do what’s necessary to protect North Carolinians and make sure anyone who needs a hospital or ICU bed gets one, whether it’s to treat COVID or a heart attack.

Advances in vaccine technology and concentrated efforts by our scientists have given us hope that new vaccines will get us to the other side of this pandemic.

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has been working hard for months to develop a vaccine distribution plan so we can hit the ground running once vaccines arrive. Quantities will be limited at first, but trusted hospitals and health care providers will be ready to vaccinate priority populations — those who are at-risk of exposure like health care workers and North Carolinians at risk of severe illness.

I have confidence in this process and plan to roll up my sleeve when it’s my turn to get the vaccine. 

But for now, we have to work together and tap into the resiliency that defines our state. Whether it’s helping our neighbors rebuild after a hurricane or coming together to support our loved ones who are most vulnerable to this virus, North Carolinians are best at looking out for

That spirit is still in us, no matter how tired or frustrated we are. Dig deep and don’t let weariness win. Together we will beat this thing.

Have comments, ideas, tips? Email info@portcitydaily.com.

Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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