North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on Friday sought federal help in the Charlotte area as hospitals across the state face record numbers of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The huge surge in COVID infections in recent weeks comes from the spread of the highly contagious corona virus variant omicron in the Charlotte region and across the state and country. North Carolina has set daily records for hospitalizations multiple times throughout January, including a new record set January 20, with 4,741 people hospitalized with COVID, according to the state.

Charlotte’s largest hospital system, Atrium Health, is currently above 95 percent capacity for hospitalizations. The hospital system has already redeployed staff from urgent care and outpatient centers, limited non-emergency procedures and closed specialty centers. On Friday, the governor’s office announced that Cooper, working with Atrium Health, has requested federal support for staffing capacity from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

The state is requesting resources including additional nurses from FEMA to help hospitals deal with COVID capacity.

Unvaccinated and in the Hospital

Across the state, 72 percent of people hospitalized and 83 percent of corona virus-related ICU admissions are unvaccinated, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). “The vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated,” state Secretary for the DHHS Kody Kinsley said in a statement. He urged residents to stay up-to-date with corona virus vaccinations and wear a well-fitting mask when around other people.

COVID Hospitalizations Rising in North Carolina 

Local experts have noted that omicron spread may be beginning to slow in Charlotte and around the state. Still, hospitalizations are typically called a lagging indicator – meaning COVID hospitalizations may slow days or weeks after COVID infections begin to plateau, and may even continue to increase.

Hospitalizations increased 23 percent last week compared to the previous week, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS). The state tracks COVID hospitalizations by regional healthcare preparedness coalitions. Mecklenburg falls into the Metrolina Healthcare Preparedness Coalition, along with parts of 12 neighboring counties. 

That region has the highest number of COVID hospitalizations across the state, with 1,109 currently hospitalized COVID patients, according to NCDHHS. The state has previously received federal COVID capacity support,  Cooper said in a statement Friday. Earlier this month, FEMA provided 25 ambulances for North Carolina, which have been deployed to 11 counties and will remain in North Carolina until February 3.

This story is made available through our media partner The Charlotte Observer.