Published on June 16, 2020

COVID-19 cases expected to peak in September

By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer, Rocky Mount Telegram

Covid unit

The spread of COVID-19 is not expected to reach its peak in Nash County and the surrounding area until the second or third week of September, Nash UNC Health Care officials project.

Hospital leaders discussed the projections for the future and what the hospital is planning to do to accommodate the growing numbers of COVID-19 patients expected to need care during a recent meeting of the Nash UNC Health Care Board of Commissioners.

The hospital is planning to provide care for 40 or more patients a day during that time, based on the projections. As of last week, the highest number of COVID-19 patients the hospital has had admitted on a single day is 11.

“From the projections we have been given for our area, it looks like there will be a slow and gradual climb, with the peak in the second or third week of September. Then the numbers are expected to slowly begin to decrease after that,” said Crystal Hayden, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer of Nash UNC Health Care.

Hayden said these are specific projections from the UNC Health System tailored for the Nash UNC Health Care service area, which includes Nash County and surrounding counties.

“As a UNC entity, we are getting our projections from the UNC Health,” Hayden said. “Their researchers and epidemiologists are constantly tracking what is happening in different counties, what is happening in the state and what is happening nationally and utilize that information to provide projections for each of the hospitals in the system based on what our local environment looks like.”

Alan Wolf, a spokesman for UNC Health, said the projections are data-driven.

“UNC Health uses ongoing data from our hospitals, including number of hospitalized COVID patients, ICU census, length of stay and other factors, as well as statewide data, to create projections of future COVID activity. Over the past several weeks, these modeling projections have been very consistent, closely mirroring the N.C. and UNC Health hospitalization trends,” Wolf said.

Hayden said the number of patients at Nash UNC Health Care is already beginning to climb.

“We are seeing a gradual increase in the number of patients hospitalized here,” she said. “We are projecting those numbers will increase to the 30s in July and August and into the 40s in September.”

Though these numbers are projected, they may not climb as much as these projections indicate, Hayden said.

“These projections from UNC are very conservative,” Hayden said. “This means that it is the projection of worst-case scenario designed to make sure that hospitals are prepared in case that projection occurs.”

Nash UNC Health Care is prepared for that increase, she said. The hospital has a sufficient supply of ventilators and personal protective equipment at this time, she said.

In addition, the hospital is preparing to treat more COVID-19 patients. Currently, stable cases of COVID-19 are treated in a separate ward on the fourth floor of the hospital and seriously ill patients are treated in a separate section of the cardiovascular intensive care unit, also known as the CVICU.

Hospital staff are working on converting a portion of the second floor to serve as a ward for moderately ill COVID-19 patients. This will expand the area for those patients and provide them with rooms that are at negative pressure so that air from the rooms will not flow into the hallways. That renovation is expected to be complete in mid-July.

“When the renovations on the second floor are complete, we will be able to care for 28 to 32 medically stable COVID-positive patients. Right now, we can also accommodate up to 21 more seriously ill COVID-positive patients in the CVICU,” Hayden said. “As it stands right now, we are well-prepared with our physical space.”

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Twin Counties continues to escalate, with 37 new cases reported in the area since Friday.

The Nash County Health Department reported eight new cases on Saturday, four more on Sunday and nine more on Monday for a total of 291 cumulative cases so far. Of that number, 163 people are considered recovered, 110 are isolated at home and four have died.

The number of Nash County residents hospitalized for COVID-19 remains at 14, the highest number reported since the pandemic began. Five of those patients are hospitalized at Nash UNC Health Care and the remainder are at other area hospitals, Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said.

The Edgecombe County Health Department reported 16 new cases since Friday, bringing the total number of reported cases in that county to 254. Of that number, 219 people are considered recovered and nine have died.

Edgecombe County does not report the number of Edgecombe County residents who are hospitalized from COVID-19.