This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(WGHP) — Cone Health’s chief operating officer said Thursday 400 employees are out sick with COVID, including 100 nurses. 

The number of people calling out is approximately 6% of the total employees with the system. 

“We are definitely a tighter team than we were before this,” said Zoe Suggs, assistant director of nursing at Wesley Long Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

She explained the mental and emotional strain the latest surge is putting on teams as more nurses contract the virus. 

“It can be a little bit scary, because staff know maybe a little bit more about what the illness looks like than the public so I think it is a little scary when they are told that they are positive,” Suggs said. 

She said a positive diagnosis can be difficult for nurses who have a team counting on them. 

“My husband actually had COVID pneumonia in the very beginning, prior to vaccines being introduced and I did have to call out for almost a week and a half, I knew that my team needed me so it kind of was hard for me to be at home,” Suggs explained. 

A pause in come elective surgeries is freeing up some staff to help elsewhere in the hospital. Travel nurses continue to fill in gaps too. 

“We have deployed some non-clinical employees, so nurses who moved to education departments and things like that, they’re coming back to the bedside to help us staff which has been phenomenal,” Suggs shared. 

In the ICU there’s a comfort room for staff with dim lights, words of affirmation, even a punching bag for stress.  

Cone Health CEO Dr. Mary Jo Cagle reported a record 303 COVID positive patients across the system Thursday. That number dropped to 253 reported Friday. 

“It is becoming more difficult every day to find well and healthy staff to care for all those,” Dr. Cagle said. 

Despite schedule shuffles and a surge in demand, Suggs says one thing has not changed. 

“The people inside this building we all are here because we want to be here, we want to take care of our patients and our community,” she said. 

Cone has a network that checks on COVID positive staff members at least every other day, and helps meet any needs they might have.