3 North Carolina hospital CEOs hold 1st joint press conference as COVID-19 surges

The CEOs of several major health systems in North Carolina urged the public Jan. 10 to take measures to protect themselves and others amid a COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant. 

During their first joint press conference, the CEOs of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and Novant Health, both based in Winston-Salem, and Greensboro-based Cone Health said the pandemic is having dire effects in the north-central part of the state, according to a news release. 

"We want people to know that it is all of your health systems, it's all of the hospitals in your area, and it's more than the hospitals," Mary Jo Cagle, MD, CEO of Cone Health, told reporters. "It is the entire safety-net structure in your community being affected. And it's going to require all of us working together to keep you safe."

The CEOs cited an increase in patients in hospitals and emergency departments, as well as an increase in employees becoming ill with COVID-19. They encouraged residents to take safety measures such as wearing a mask when in public and avoiding large crowds. They also encouraged residents to get their COVID-19 shots and boosters.

"I think this is about everyone around you and your community," said Julie Freischlag, MD, CEO of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. Dr. Freischlag noted that this community includes children who might not be able to get vaccinated yet and older people who may be immunocompromised and more at risk.

Healthcare workers are "asking for more than thanks and gratitude," Carl Armato, CEO of Novant Health, said during the press conference. "What they're really asking for is for all of us — each one of us — to reduce the number of COVID cases so that they can deliver remarkable care under more reasonable circumstances."

Overall, new daily COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the U.S. have risen 83 percent over the last two weeks, with North Carolina seeing an 82 percent increase during that time period, according to HHS data tracked by The New York Times.

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