5-13-2020 – Caldwell UNC CEO COVID-19 Update to EDC board

Posted on: May 13th, 2020 by admin


May 13, 2020



By Guy Lucas

May 12, 2020 10:55 AM


Social distancing measures have prevented the health system in Caldwell County from being overwhelmed, but the number of county residents who are severely ill with COVID-19 is projected to increase notably in the coming weeks, the leader of Caldwell UNC Health Care said.


A total of four county residents so far have been sick enough to require hospitalization, and two remain in critical condition – one at a hospital in Winston-Salem and one in the intensive care unit at Caldwell Memorial Hospital, Caldwell UNC President Laura Easton told the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors on Tuesday.


But current projections indicate the number of people requiring hospitalization will increase, both statewide and locally, and by the third week of July the hospital may have 22 COVID-19 patients, with six to eight of them in critical condition, Easton said.


However, she considers that good news compared to what projections showed earlier this year, before Gov. Roy Cooper’s emergency orders and related social distancing measures sharply reduced people’s movements and interactions.


“We can meet that capacity,” Easton said, adding that the hospital has 12 beds in the ICU and has 14 ventilators. “The original projections were overwhelming.”


Caldwell UNC officials had made plans to convert non-hospital buildings into medical facilities for severely ill COVID-19 patients, she said.


Caldwell UNC is well positioned to treat patients, in part because of access through the UNC Health system to advanced research, Easton said. Among treatments available is a Mayo Clinic trial making blood from people who have recovered from COVID-19 available for transfusion, which researchers hope will help a patient recover more quickly.


Easton cautioned that as Cooper has eased restrictions on business, it remains vital for people to continue social distancing precautions. She cited a number of localized COVID-19 outbreaks – including at Tyson Foods in Wilkesboro, which she said helped fuel a surge of people coming to Caldwell UNC’s diagnostic clinic late last week for testing. She said 50 people came to the clinic on Friday, which was reminiscent of how many people were being tested weeks ago.


If people don’t continue social distancing, more such outbreaks are possible.


“You can go from zero to 100 pretty quickly,” she said.


About one-third of the people testing positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms, and while those who get seriously ill are a minority, “those who get sick get really sick,” Easton said. “That’s what makes it so tricky.”


The need for precautions – limiting indoor meetings to fewer than 10 people, wearing masks, washing hands frequently, working from home as much as possible – is not likely to end any time soon, she said.


“I can’t imagine it won’t be with us for a year,” she said.


Because of the ongoing threat of COVID-19, Caldwell UNC officials have been talking with local businesses about things they need, including more testing for COVID-19 and also testing for antibodies against the disease. The presence of the antibodies indicate that the person has been infected in the past, which may indicate some level of immunity, though that has not been proven yet, she said.


On a different front, construction of Caldwell UNC Health Care’s new mental health treatment pavilion is nearing completion, and officials project it could open July 20. Because of the coronavirus, when the facility opens it will have only private rooms, Easton said.

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