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Coronavirus news and updates about the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

BizWorthy: Atrium And Novant Patient Levels Back To Pre-Pandemic Numbers

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Jodie Valade/WFAE / Atrium Health

Charlotte's hospitals are returning to normal. Atrium Health and Novant Health both say they're now seeing the same number of patients they were before the pandemic began. It's a big switch from this spring when the hospital systems overhauled their operations and postponed non-emergency surgeries. For more, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment, BizWorthy.

BizWorthy logo

Marshall Terry: Tony, we talked before about how, despite what people might think, the pandemic has not been a financial boon for hospitals because many non-coronavirus patients stopped going to the doctor out of fear of getting infected. So with the number of patients back to normal level, does that mean the hospital systems are back to where they were financially as well?

Tony Mecia: Well, Marshall, I think it's it's helpful from the hospital's perspective to have patients coming back in about the same number as they were before. But there's still a pretty big hole. I mean, you had Atrium and Novant each put off elective surgeries for about a month. Those can be pretty lucrative for hospitals. If you'll recall, they were really clearing the decks, trying to make way for what they thought would be a crush of COVID patients coming in. The number of hospitalized patients in Mecklenburg County sort of topped out around 200 a couple of months ago. There are about 2,200 hospital beds ordinarily.

So, you know, you can see from a hospital's perspective if you don't have patients coming in, that kind of hurts their bottom line a little bit. So things are getting back on track. But certainly, there are, I think, some losses for the local hospitals.

Terry: This week, The Ledger looked at one sector in particular that's taking a hard hit right now -- fashion retailers. Now, is that because many people just aren't dressing up because they're staying at home?

Mecia: Yeah, that's exactly it, Marshall. I mean, if you think about it, a lot of the local retailers that sell clothing, a lot of them are oriented towards big events. People going to weddings, charity galas, holiday parties, things like that. And most of those, as we know, aren't really happening. So it's a little bit of a crunch for some of these apparel retailers. For those that did survive the weeks of being closed during the pandemic, they're now sort of facing a reality in which, you know, a lot of what they sell, people aren't buying.

We went and talked to several local retailers. Our Cristina Bolling talked to Paul Simon Women, which is a boutique in South Park. And it's trying to switch a little more toward comfortable clothing -- cashmere sweaters, comfortable knit pants. You know, not maybe so many cocktail dresses.

Terry: Wells Fargo's CEO, Charles Scharf, has come under fire for some recent comments regarding diversity. What did he say, exactly?

Mecia: Marshall, he got into a little bit of hot water this week when it came out that he had written a memo over the summer talking about why the bank hadn't met its diversity hiring goals.

He said, "The unfortunate reality is there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from." And so while in the context of Wells Fargo trying to promote a more diverse workforce, it sort of came off sounding like he was saying that there is a lack of talented Black applicants for a lot of jobs. That didn't sit well with a lot of executives in the recruiting industry. Some politicians that said, look, it sounds insensitive and, you know, maybe you just need to be doing a better job.

And Marshall, he did later put out a statement saying he apologized for his insensitive comments that he said reflected his own "unconscious bias" and said that Wells Fargo is committed to diversity in its workforce.

Terry: Tony, you found that Bill Spoon's BBQ on South Boulevard sold for $1 million just two days after it closed last week. The owner said the restaurant was closing after almost six decades because business had declined and the pandemic was the final blow. But it sounds like there may have been some development pressure here as well.

Mecia: Well, I mean, I think if you look at what the owner had said, he had said that over the years the business had dropped off, that the coronavirus certainly didn't help.

But yes, then a couple days later, after they closed, they did sell to a developer for $1 million. But the owner did tell The Observer he didn't feel any pressure from developers. But certainly that might help recoup some of the losses that they had had.

Terry: What are the plans for the spot now?

Mecia: Well, it's a little bit unclear. They sold to a developer who's known for developing affordable housing projects. The developer didn't return an email of mine, but I think it's safe to assume that -- I mean, that's an area that's right by the Tyvola light rail stop along South Boulevard. And so, you know, that's a pretty desirable area. So I would think we would see it redeveloped.

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Credit IHOP
The Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity

Terry: Staying with restaurants for a second: You report that most IHOP locations in Charlotte have not reopened. And it's not just because of the pandemic. So what's going on?

Mecia: Well, it sort of is and it isn't. I mean, a lot of the IHOPs, a lot of them never really reopened because the franchise operator of the IHOPs in Charlotte filed for bankruptcy in Florida, and then has gotten into a dispute with IHOP corporate and is basically liquidating.

So most of the IHOPs in Charlotte, Marshall, have not reopened, but they might within a number of months. They're selling to another franchise operator. So if you want the Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity, you probably have to wait a little while.

Terry: All right. Well, we'll leave it there this week. Thanks, Tony.

Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.

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