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(WGHP) — Leaders at our three biggest hospitals say the decisions we are making are causing unnecessary strain on their medical centers and staff. 

“All three of us are really asking our communities to help those heroes who are exhausted from caring for unprecedented numbers of patients who have seen more death than any of us could ever imagine,” said Carl Armato, CEO of Novant Health. 

It’s not just about the health care workers getting tired and the hospitals filling up. It is the impact it is having on people who need help in other ways and the health of the workers trying to treat COVID-19 patients. 

“I actually heard some family members say, ‘why can’t you take care of my loved one?’ I think that’s the piece that we don’t ever want you to think about,” said Dr. Julie Freischlag with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.  

The speed of the spread of omicron is infecting people at a rapid rate. 

“At Novant, we now have over 500 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 systemwide…I’m here to tell you with those numbers, 80% of those patients are still not vaccinated,” Armato said. 

At Cone Health, the number is lower but not something to celebrate with 250 patients fighting the virus. 

Atrium Wake Forest Baptist is also seeing a spike in cases over the last two weeks. 

“It is the entire safety net structure in your community being affected,” said Dr. Mary Cagle from Cone Health.

Health leaders know people are frustrated with COVID precautions but said each time we choose to not protect ourselves, someone else, even a healthy person, feels the effects of your decision. 

“I had a patient I had to say ‘well, your surgery needs to be done, but I can’t do it in the next couple weeks.’ We’re hoping we can do it in the next few weeks. And hers is elective, but she’d like it done now because she is a professional, and she can’t work,” Freischlag said. 

“Because it is so infective, and we are bringing them into our hospital, we are having our employees become infected, and so we are having high absenteeism, and so our resources are spread very thin,” Cagle explained. 

Doctors also have a new focus on kids. 

“We’re seeing an increased level of children now getting infected. We have more children in the hospital now than we ever have. Those who can’t get vaccinated,” Freischlag said. 

“We are passionate about the care we give every day. We want to continue to be able to give it and to do that. We need the partnership of the public,” Cagle said. 

Health leaders are hoping they will see a decrease in the case count in February.