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COVID-19NC: Case Climb, Hospital Staff & A Moment Of Calm

North Carolina broke another coronavirus daily case record on Sunday,  as more people get tested before Thanksgiving.    Gov. Roy Cooper will hold a coronavirus task force press briefing Monday afternoon.(11/23).  BPR’s Helen Chickering checks in with North Carolina Health News editor Rose Hobanabout the metrics, concerns about hospital staffing and a look at how some nursing homes in North Carolina are keeping the virus at bay.

HC: We had the governor's Corona virus task force briefing on Tuesday. And I think we were all expecting an announcement about new restrictions, which didn't happen.

RH: Surprised that we're not starting to hear about pullbacks on restrictions, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them come just because things are starting to look bad.  We saw what 4,300 people on Thursday.  The death rate is still kind of holding steady -  but it is steady.  And we're now bumping up against 5,000 deaths. So that's, that's a lot of people who've died. So, it's really concerning.   We had these stories about how to keep COVID out of nursing homes. And one of the factors that promotes COVID getting into nursing homes is when there is high rate of community transmission.

HC: And one of the take home messages was facilities had to figure out how to stay one step ahead of the virus,

RH: Correct. And, you know, making wide use of PPEs -  getting ahead of things, teaching staff members, what to do, what not to do. You know, there's been some really important research on staffing. So there was a study in Health Affairs that found that nursing homes with a staff that had a labor union, they died at a 30% lower rate than residents of non-unionized facilities. And there's a big association between lower staffing and the quality of resident care in nursing homes. You know, and it's interesting just yesterday after we finished editing, I only saw this. It's a piece of research done actually by a friend of mine out in California that found that beyond COVID deaths, nursing homes that had worse staffing also had more non COVID deaths, deaths from failure to thrive.

HC: I want to focus on hospital staffing because we hear lots of concerns all over the news about the lack of adequate staffing and how that might get worse. You are in regular contact with hospitals in North Carolina, people on the floors. Are they concerned? What are you hearing?

RH: Yes. That was one of the things that these ICU heads talked to me about is that they are worried about staffing. I've been talking about this for the past couple of weeks that I've heard these ICU heads say, especially in rural places, they don't have the money to hire traveling nurses who now have expertise in her going from hotspot to hotspot,  really gleaning a lot of experience. And they can now ask for a premium. Can you blame them for going where the money is?  So now, maybe they're going to El Paso and they're able to ask for a premium salary for the next three months.  But that means that these people are not available to say, come to Wilson County, which has a high level of hospitalization in their patients.

And here's your moment of calm from Rose who was working from the Surf City, NC last week.  Enjoy the view and a bit of "beach music"!  

Credit Rose Hoban

About Rose Hoban:

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992 but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health policy and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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