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County Health Director: No Employees Hospitalized After COVID-19 Outbreak At Atrium Health Pineville

Atrium Health

Updated August 13, 2021 4:15 p.m.

At least 50 hospital employees and nine patients at Atrium Health Pineville have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. None of the involved employees had been hospitalized as of Friday morning, according to Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris.

The preliminary investigation by the state found 35 of the 50 employees had been vaccinated, and at least 33 cases are confirmed to be the delta variant of COVID-19. Neither the state nor Atrium have released information on the severity of symptoms experienced by infected employees or patients.

"The investigation is ongoing, and the state intends to report findings once the investigation is final," DHHS spokesperson Bailey Pennington told WFAE in an emailed statement Friday morning.

According to Mecklenburg County data released Friday afternoon, the maternity unit at Atrium Health Pineville as of Wednesday had a cluster of 21 cases—14 staff members and seven patients. The hospital was included in the county's list of congregate living settings "with active COVID-19 outbreaks." Another Atrium facility, the Levine Children's Hospital, recorded one case of COVID-19 in a staff member in its respiratory therapy department as of Wednesday, according to the county data.

Atrium Health immediately contacted NCDHHS as it began investigating the cluster, according to the state, and health officials with both Atrium and the state are continuing to conduct additional testing and sequencing to determine the full scope of the outbreak.

In a message to staff Thursday, Atrium Health confirmed that it was investigating a number of positive COVID-19 tests among employees.

"Out of an abundance of caution, and with concern for the privacy of each individual, we have reached out directly to teammates and patients who were in the affected area to let them know that they could have come into contact with a COVID-19 positive person," the message read. "We believe their risk of contracting COVID is low, given the proper use of personal protective equipment."

In a recorded statement, Atrium Health's medical director of infection prevention, Dr. Katie Passaretti, said unvaccinated individuals should still seek out the vaccine to avoid severe infections.

"We are going to continue to see vaccinated individuals with mild cases of COVID. That does not mean that the vaccine doesn't work," she said. "The vaccine still protects individuals. You're less likely to get a mild infection if you've been vaccinated, and what it continues to be exquisitely good at is preventing COVID-related hospitalization and death."

The outbreak at Atrium Health Pineville came as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have risen to their highest levels since the winter surge.

State health officials say new COVID-19 cases have increased by 50% over the past seven days, with 5,900 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations have more than doubled in North Carolina over the past two weeks, with 2,409 people in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Thursday.

Copyright 2021 WFAE. To see more, visit WFAE.

WFAE's Nick de la Canal can be heard on public radio airwaves across the Charlotte region, bringing listeners the latest in local and regional news updates. He's been a part of the WFAE newsroom since 2013, when he began as an intern. His reporting helped the station earn an Edward R. Murrow award for breaking news coverage following the Keith Scott shooting and protests in September 2016. More recently, he's been reporting on food, culture, transportation, immigration, and even the paranormal on the FAQ City podcast. He grew up in Charlotte, graduated from Myers Park High, and received his degree in journalism from Emerson College in Boston. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literture and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, Claire likes listening to podcasts and trying out new recipes.
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