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5 Things To Know: Atrium Health Officials Report ‘Alarming Trend’ of Underreported Ailments

Atrium Health Officials Report ‘Alarming Trend’ of Underreported Ailments

Atrium Health is reporting what it calls “an alarming trend” of patients delaying hospital visits due to fears about coronavirus. In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, emergency physician Dr. Andrew Asimos suggested that minor strokes are going underreported or even ignored by some patients due to fears they may have about going to the hospital.

“Compared to earlier in the year … our overall suspected stroke rates are down about 40%,” he said.

He added that patients with more serious strokes are continuing to report them, but “appear to be waiting longer” to do so. Any such delay can have a critical impact on recovery rates, Asimos said.

Dr. Rahul Karamchandani, stroke medical director at Carolinas Medical Center, agreed. “The sickest of those patients, the ones that have blood clots in the large arteries, have also been waiting longer — on average about two to three hours longer in the month of April.”

Heart attacks also appear to be going underreported, with vice chief of cardiology Dr. Troy Leo estimating a significant decrease in the city of Charlotte.

“We probably are seeing about a third of the heart attacks that we usually see,” Leo said. “People, rightfully, are scared to seek medical care right now. At the same time, there are diseases out there that haven’t gone away. So while there’s a lot of press about COVID, the reality is that stuff like heart attacks, strokes, things that were happening before COVID can still be more deadly than COVID itself.”

Vice President of Atrium’s Neurosciences Institute Dr. Karen Seagraves suggested arranging phone calls or safe visits to elderly folks or those living alone to check on their general health and potential signs of trouble.

“One of the unique things about stroke is that you may not know you’re having one if you’re having one. And when you are socially isolated, there’s no one there to witness the symptoms that you may be having,” Seagraves said. 

On Tuesday, Annie Ma and Fred Clasen-Kelly with the Charlotte Observer reported that some nurses at Atrium facilities have had to decide whether to accept a cut in hours and pay or work directly with COVID-19 patients without sufficient personal protective equipment or hazard pay. Earlier this month, we spoke with a nurse with Atrium who voiced her concerns about the lack of PPE in her hospital

Atrium spokesperson Claire Simmons stated in a press release that personal protective equipment is widely available among units, including emergency departments and maternity wards. She also stated that Atrium Health emergency departments have taken measures “to limit or prevent intermingling of patients potentially symptomatic from COVID (e.g. fever, cough, shortness of breath) with non-symptomatic patients.”

On Friday evening, Atrium announced the implementation of new “COVID-Safe” care sites at which staff are testing all patients for COVID-19 prior to any testing procedures. Atrium has established care units and clinical teams for exclusive treatment of non-COVID patients, a release states, and also deployed a COVID-19 “Virtual Hospital” to treat patients that don’t need hospitalization from their own homes. 

Positive COVID-19 Case Count at 1,400 in Mecklenburg

Mecklenburg County officials held a press conference on Friday updating the public on current COVID-19 numbers in the county, stating that there have been 1,400 confirmed cases among Mecklenburg residents and 37 deaths related to the virus, though the number of cases in the county is surely much higher. 

“Many individuals infected by COVID-19 have not been tested because they are asymptomatic or do not meet current CDC recommendations for testing,” stated a press release on Friday. “As such, these results are very fluid and only represent a snapshot of the true burden of COVID-19 in our community.” 

Data from the first 1,331 cases shows that about three in four were in people between the ages of 20 and 59, while only about one in five required hospitalization. Those stats have remained consistent throughout the crisis. For more in-depth info, visit the county’s data dashboard

Schools to Remain Closed Through the School Year

State officials announced on Friday that public schools around North Carolina will remain closed throughout the school year, which ends on June 9 for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). Most school systems will continue the virtual learning curricula they have adopted during the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Roy Cooper said at a press conference he held with officials from the North Carolina Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction (DPI). 

Cooper also stated that officials are currently working on plans for new policies to protect students’ safety when schools reopen for the next school year, which is currently set to begin on August 31 for CMS. 

“Already we know that even the next school year will not be ‘business as usual,'” Cooper tweeted on Friday. “This pandemic will be with us for some time. But I have every confidence we will find a way to get schools open safely in the new school year. These challenges will require close coordination with the Board, DPI and the General Assembly, and I hope to continue working together.” 

Activists Put Pressure on Phil Berger

On Friday morning, members of NC United for Survival & Beyond (NCUSB), a statewide coalition of more than 200 grassroots organizations, held a rolling protest outside of N.C. Senate President Phil Berger’s house to demand urgent relief for North Carolinians hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At 10 a.m., 30 cars drove by Berger’s home. Some honked while others banged pots and pans.

After all the cars passed, they lined up in front of his house to issue a “wake-up call” for action from Berger. A month ago, on March 24, NCUSB called on Senator Berger to issue a special session to use the billions of reserves in state funds to mitigate the harm facing North Carolinians during this pandemic. He never responded.

Activists dropped a banner over an interstate in Charlotte on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of NC United for Survival)

“For years, Phil Berger has failed to do his job. He has a history of obstructionism that has left our healthcare, unemployment, and other key state services to suffer,” said Chanelle Croxton, N.C. organizing director with the Domestic Workers Alliance. “Now, when these services are needed most by the working families of North Carolina, they are critically under resourced.”

Friday’s action came a day after the group dropped seven banners across the state — in Durham, Raleigh, Asheville, Wilmington, Charlotte, Fayetteville and Greensboro — calling out Berger for his inaction in the face of COVID19. The banners read “We need relief for people not corporations, Phil Berger.” In Raleigh, Berger has continually led efforts to block relief and safety net measures including Medicaid expansion, unemployment benefits and worker protections.

Man Killed in University City

A 23-year-old man was shot and killed in University City on Friday night, marking the 30th homicide in Charlotte this year. Police responded to the intersection of Paces Oaks and East W.T. Harris boulevards and found 23-year-old Li Y lying in the roadway next to a car and suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead on the scene. 

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