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Hospitalizations are up, most unvaccinated

While Pardee UNC Health has seen a rise in patient admissions, physicians have found that outpatient antibody treatments have been effective in keeping hospitalizations at bay and preventing deaths, the hospital’s chief medical officer said.

In a media availability today, Dr. David Ellis also praised the decision by the School Board to require masks in schools and emphasized that vaccinated people have a far better chance of avoiding Covid and are likely to be less sick if they catch a "breakthrough" investion.

Pardee has 13 Covid patients today. It had 10 on Wednesday, nine of them unvaccinated.
“We continue to see more patients being hospitalized, certainly not the level we saw back in the winter, but a significant number,” Ellis said. “We continue to see a very high level of positivity in our testing,” running 15-20 percent, which is higher than last winter. “What we’re seeing interestingly enough is that even in symptomatic people the positive rate in the unvaccinated is about three times as high as the rate of vaccinated people.”
An intravenous antibody treatment given in an outpatient setting is keeping people out of the hospital. Pardee has given about 300 doses of Regeneron and more than 500 doses of monoclonal. “We think it has a lot of value in keeping people from being hospitalized and in decreasing mortality,” he said. Throughout the UNC system, hospitals have given around 3,500 doses of monoclonal, and has seen an admission rate of just 3 percent of those patients, compared to 15-20 percent without the dose.
“If you look at the mortality of those 3,500 people it’s at about point-six (percent) compared to one and a half to 2 percent mortality” without monoclonal treatment, he said. At Pardee, of the 300 people who received a Regeneron dose, none died and only five were hospitalized. “We feel like this is a valuable treatment to keep people out of the hospital and to decrease mortality,” he said.
If a patient of Pardee’s physician practices suspects he or she has Covid, they will be directed to urgent care.
“We’re not seeing possible Covid-positive patients in our primary care settings,” he said. “We’re referring those people to urgent care where they can be tested. We’re doing masks (in doctors’ offices) to try to ensure that our primary care clinics are a safe environment for people with chronic illnesses to go.”
While the hospital is unable to track whether a Covid-19 patient is sick with the Delta variant or the previous virus, an estimate is that 80 percent of Covid cases across the state are the Delta variant. The number of people that a Delta-positive person can infect averages four to five, he said, compared to one or two in the first Covid variant, and Delta carriers are far more likely to pass it on to family members in a household.
“It clearly is more contagious,” he said. “From our small sample size, I can’t say with a degree of certainty that patients are sicker. They do seem to be sicker but we are lucky not to have any patients in ICU.”
Pardee has seen breakthrough cases of Covid in vaccinated people and has found those patients typically have a less severe sickness than unvaccinated patients. “The vaccine does seem to decrease the severity of the illness,”
Ellis endorsed the School Board’s decision on Monday to require masks in school, a reversal of its decision on Aug. 2 to make masks optional.
“From a medical standpoint … if you look at the data, in my mind and in the mind of most health care professionals, masks decrease the spread of the virus,” he said. “Last winter, when everybody was wearing a mask, we essentially had no flu season at all. Clearly masks are effective in decreasing the spread of viruses. I think everybody would agree that we really don’t want to have our children taught virtually again this year. I think the best way to keep children safe, children healthy and children in school is for them to be masked.”
As for the decision by the Board of Commissioners to ban the use of public money to promote vaccines, Ellis said public health nurses “should be able to educate people, whatever that means. Education sometimes takes dollars. I think there shouldn’t be a moratorium on the health care people who are employed by the county to not be able to spend money on science or on education.”