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Cone Health could run out of hospital beds by Jan. 21, analysts warn. Community effort can change that, says physician.
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Cone Health could run out of hospital beds by Jan. 21, analysts warn. Community effort can change that, says physician.

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Greensboro's Cone Health warned Monday that, at current COVID-19 hospitalization trends, it will fill all 924 staffed beds within its system by Jan. 21 and reach a near 50% shortfall by late April.

The health care system debuted a new feature on its website to focus on hospitalization projections by its analytics department.

The predictions cover Moses Cone, Wesley Long, Alamance Regional in Burlington and Annie Penn in Reidsville.

The first projection is for Tuesday, in which Cone estimates 251 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 623 non-COVID-19 patients.

The site estimates Cone will first exceed capacity on Jan. 21 and could have a shortfall of 36 beds — after 337 COVID-19 patients and 587 other patients are hospitalized.

At the current projected peak for April 29, there would be a shortfall of 454 beds — after 755 COVID-19 patients and 169 other patients are hospitalized.

“The graph is our best prediction of what the future will look like,” said Dr. Bruce Swords, Cone's chief physician executive.

"It is a forecast, and this forecast can be changed by our community applying the lessons learned during this pandemic.

"COVID-19 spreads less when people stay away from one another, wear masks and frequently wash their hands.”

Cone said the forecast is meant to offer "a sobering look into the coming months."

"It shows how the forecast number of COVID-19 cases pushes traditional health care services out of the hospital."

Swords said that will translate to "very long waits in emergency departments."

"It means people who are hurting with painful hips won’t get them replaced. It means that people who need care for anything other than a true emergency or COVID-19 are in for a long wait."


Novant Health Inc. and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center could not be immediately reached for comment on whether they have plans to provide similar hospital bed projections.

The three Triad systems have said for weeks they currently have the flexibility to utilize community hospitals to ease the COVID-19 burden in the main hospitals.

A interactive map posted by The New York Times, which tracks COVID-19 ICU beds, was updated Monday. The dashboard is based on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data through Dec. 31.

Moses Cone was listed as increasing from 268 to 283 COVID-19 patients and from zero to three available ICU beds. 

Forsyth Medical Center had a decrease from 211 COVID-19 patients on Dec. 24 to 207 on Dec. 31. The listing has Forsyth with nine available ICU beds, unchanged from the previous week.

Novant said in its response to the New York Times ICU dashboard that it "does not reflect additional surge capacity, and therefore seems to not accurately reflect availability. What is important for every (individual) to know is that Novant Health has the capacity to care for critical and non-critical patients."

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Wake Forest Baptist went from 73 to 85 COVID-19 patients, and from 19 to 14 available ICU beds.

Wake Forest Baptist affiliate High Point Regional Medical Center went from 42 to 45 COVID-19 patients, and from two to one available ICU beds.

"We are seeing a very high number of patients requiring hospitalization due to COVID-19 and are constantly monitoring capacity projections across the region," Wake Forest Baptist said Monday in a statement.

"In addition, we continue to evaluate and adjust our surge plans and staffing to ensure we are meeting the health care needs of those who depend on us."

Cone affiliate Alamance Regional Medical Center went from 39 to 55 COVID-19 patients and from zero to two available ICU beds.

According to the New York Times map, Cone was at 97% ICU occupancy rate, High Point at 96%, Forsyth at 92%, Alamance at 91% and Wake Forest Baptist at 87%. The state's average ICU occupancy rate was 83%.


North Carolina surged to another record high in COVID-19 hospitalizations at 3,635, N.C. DHHS reported Monday. That's up 59 from the previous high of 3,576 reported Sunday.

There were 1,966 individuals hospitalized with the coronavirus on Nov. 30.

The state and Forsyth County are in the midst of an expected surge in cases and hospitalizations stemming from holiday social gatherings. It typically takes between 7 to 10 days for COVID-19 symptoms to appear in most affected individuals.

“We begin 2021 in our most dangerous position in this pandemic," state Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a statement Saturday. "We have critically high rates of spread in much of our state."

The 17-county Triad region has a record 974 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Monday's report, up five from the previous high of 969 reported Tuesday.

The region has had more COVID-19 hospitalizations than any other region in the state for the past 11 weeks.

However, the Charlotte region is quickly catching up with 949 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

In response, Novant and Wake Forest Baptist are limiting the number of non-essential elective surgeries for adults. Novant said elective surgeries continue at Medical Park Hospital and its ambulatory surgical centers.

Cone is limiting similar non-essential elective surgeries requiring more than one overnight stay.

Monday, DHHS reported a record 783 adult COVID-19 patients in ICUs statewide.

DHHS said there are 2,010 ICU beds in use statewide with 410 considered staffed and empty with another 1,075 listed as unreported or unstaffed.

In terms of overall hospital beds statewide, there were 15,457 in use, 5,406 staffed and empty, and 4,603 unreported or unstaffed.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Dec. 22 that the challenge in North Carolina has been more about staffing capacity than ICU bed capacity.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to prevent from overwhelming our hospital systems,” Cooper said.




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