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WUNC reports from Greensboro about Guilford County and surrounding area.

Cone Health Urges Residents To Follow Rules To Lower Amount Of COVID-19 Patients

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North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Greensboro-based Cone Health operates in two of the state's red zones for COVID-19 numbers.

Both Alamance and Guilford Counties are labeled "red" in the updated state COVID-19 alert map.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Cone Health facilities in both Guilford and Alamance has almost doubled in two months. The healthcare network currently has nearly 150 COVID patients in their hospitals or emergency rooms. Cone Health officials said they wouldn't be surprised if they reached 400 patients by the end of the year.

Dr. Bruce Swords, the chief physician executive for Cone Health, says that progression is not inevitable.

"We should all be frustrated that we're having to deal with this and that the hospital staff is having to take care of people," Chief Physician Executive for Cone Health Bruce Swords said. "This really is a preventable illness. From that point of view, I and other leaders are frustrated."

The high rate of coronavirus transmission in these areas is putting a strain on local hospitals. Swords said they're watching the trends closely.

"We follow something called a 'reproduction rate,'" he said. "How many people get infected from somebody who's already infected? And if I have COVID. Am I giving it to more or less than one person? It needs to be less than one. Currently, our regions and our state is well over one."

Swords says a crisis could still be averted if people in the region wear masks and limit gathering.

Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order this week strengthening the statewide mask mandate. The order will be in effect through mid-December.

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