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North Carolina and Mecklenburg County hit record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations


The omicron variant of the coronavirus has pushed the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 in North Carolina and in Mecklenburg County to new record highs.

On Wednesday, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 4,098 people were in the hospital with the disease caused by the coronavirus, surpassing the previous pandemic record of 3,992 hospitalizations recorded Jan. 13, 2021.

In Mecklenburg County, health officials said 569 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday — another record high. The county’s previous record was set Jan. 13, 2021, when officials reported 565 people were hospitalized.

The record-breaking hospitalization numbers come as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads across the United States, leading to an unprecedented surge in cases and hospitalizations.

Charlotte area hospitals are “strained but stable,” Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County’s public health director, said Wednesday. He said the reduced hospital impact is in part because fewer patients require intensive care than during previous surges.

“With this current surge, we’re not seeing as much admission or much need for … higher acuity care which is good for the hospitals’ capacity,” Washington said. “(Patients) who are requiring ventilation or are requiring intensive care require a lot more staff capacity.”

In North Carolina, fewer than one-quarter of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were in the intensive care unit as of Tuesday. The vast majority of people in the hospital with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. For the week ending Jan. 1, the state reported nearly 80% of patients hospitalized statewide were unvaccinated.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.