Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Cone Health and Novant Health hospitals in the region report a surge in recent weeks of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, very similar to a surge earlier this year before vaccines became widely available

They also report that more than 90% of their patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, more are younger and many are from communities with low rates of vaccination and resistance to mask wearing.

“These health systems strongly urge the unvaccinated to take responsibility to not only protect their own health, but also protect the lives of their loved ones and neighbors,” said a spokesman for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.

The spokesman continued, “Physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and countless other health care workers have been fighting for 18 months – fighting the pandemic, fighting to keep themselves and their family healthy, and fighting to save the lives of their patients – and they are exhausted.

“These health care workers have made incredible sacrifices and they need the support of the community now more than ever before. Being responsible and getting vaccinated, along with practicing other measures to slow the spread of the virus, helps ensure that those who require hospitalization, regardless of the circumstance, have a hospital bed and a medical team to care for them.”

Public health and medical professionals say vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19. They note that rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people have proven that the vaccines are safe and effective. Almost 200 million Americans have been safely vaccinated and confirmed adverse events following vaccination are rare. According to the CDC, the vaccines have undergone and will continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

While vaccines are the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, monoclonal antibody therapy can reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization, especially in high-risk patients. For those who test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy must be administered within 10 days of the first COVID-19 symptoms.

Patients should speak with their physician to see if monoclonal antibody therapy is an option, find a treatment center near them or call the Federal Monoclonal Antibody Call Center for assistance at 1-877-332-6585 (English) or 1-877-366-0310 (Spanish). In many cases, an appointment must be scheduled by the patient’s health care provider.

Public health experts recommend that anyone who has symptoms of or has been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible. Testing sites can be found at ncdhhs.gov/GetTested.

The Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist spokesman said people not experiencing serious symptoms should not go to the emergency department for routine COVID-19 testing.

“Individuals experiencing serious or life-threatening symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, should seek immediate medical attention,” the spokesman added.

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