RALEIGH — North Carolina reported its highest number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus Monday, marking a record for the fourth consecutive day.
The state health department reported 1,966 people were hospitalized with the virus statewide. COVID-19 hospitalizations had already set new records on Saturday with 1,826 patients and Sunday with 1,879 patients.
In Robeson County, Southeastern Health reported that as of Monday, 17 patients were in isolation because they had contracted COVID-19, three patients were in isolation and under investigation for possible infection, and 27 employees were under virus-related quarantine.
Intensive care units across the state held 457 virus patients as of Monday, according to the state health department. That number exceeds the previous record of 456 patients last Wednesday. The state also reported more than 2,700 new cases compared with Sunday, bringing North Carolina’s total virus cases to more than 364,500 since the pandemic began.
“There are currently five COVID-19 patients in Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s ICU,” Jason Cox, Southeastern Heath vice president and chief operating officer said Monday. “SRMC has 25 ICU beds as a hospital. Currently, 17 ICU beds have patients and five of those have COVID.”
The state has averaged 3,572 new cases each day over the past week, with a test positivity rate of almost 7.4%, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Both cases and positivity rates have been on the rise over the past seven days, mirroring the nationwide surge in cases and hospitalizations.
In North Carolina, virus outbreaks across the state’s nearly 60 state prisons caused officials to shutter three facilities temporarily so correctional officers and staff can be shifted to handle security and medical needs elsewhere. Offenders at those sites were transferred to other prisons.
Speaking to a state Senate committee Monday, Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee said the recent closings at Randolph Correctional Center in Asheboro, Southern Correctional Institution in Troy and Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury are planned to be temporary. But he added it’d be hard to guarantee that due to potential budget cuts as the pandemic affects state revenues and prison expenses.
Only the minimum custody units at Southern Correctional and Piedmont Correctional were closed, with officers there moving to other units that remained open on-site. Some prison beds at Southern Correctional have been converted to hospital beds for offenders, Ishee said Monday. There were nearly 30,300 inmates statewide as of Monday.
While more than 5,700 positive tests have been reported among offenders, about 630 cases are considered active, according to data Monday from the Department of Public Safety. Fewer than 10 prisoners were hospitalized as of this weekend, according to the agency’s website.
There have been 24 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths among offenders in North Carolina. The state’s overall COVID-19 death toll is at least 5,261.
Among prison workers, more than 1,500 positive tests have been reported since the pandemic began, and about 320 staff members are currently out of work, according to Ishee’s presentation to senators. He said the prison system currently operates a testing program in which 20% of staff are tested monthly. Testing becomes more routine at high-risk facilities.