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Atrium Health warns of increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations

It comes as the more transmissible delta coronavirus variant continues to hospitalize unvaccinated individuals.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Atrium Health says it's seeing upwards of six times the number of COVID-19 patients coming into the emergency department over the past two months.

It comes as the more transmissible delta coronavirus variant continues to be the dominant strain of the virus in both North and South Carolina.

Chief of crisis operations at Atrium Health, Dr. David Callaway, said that the surge in COVID-19 case numbers across the Carolinas is leading to packed hospitals. 

"There's not a shift that goes by where I'm not seeing and admitting you know 3, 4, 5 patients with COVID who are pretty sick," Callaway said. "We're full, all the hospitals across the region are full."

Callaway said "universally" the patients coming into the emergency department are unvaccinated.

Callaway also stressed the need to make masks mandatory in schools.

 "Kids in school should be wearing masks, period," Callaway, who is also a father, said. "I would implore [schools] to implement mask mandates for kids just like Mecklenburg County did because this is how you stop the spread of a pandemic that's killed 700,000."

Callaway added that if a child does contract COVID-19, the domino effect can lead parents, siblings and friends to get the virus. 

"Kids are missing school they're missing education they're falling behind, and their parents are out of work," Callaway said. "The impact on their learning, the impact on their social situation the impact on their parents is significant in all schools."

Callaway said Atrium is also monitoring the lambda coronavirus variant. 

"The way that viruses work is they evolve to become more infectious and evolve in becoming more deadly and so, the fewer people that are vaccinated with fewer people wearing masks, the more opportunity there is for the next to vary," Callaway said. 

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