As COVID-19 shots reach out across North Carolina, state health officials remain focused on getting vaccines out quickly and fairly. In a recent CDC report, North Carolina is among the top ten states in the country for fair vaccine distribution. In terms of access to care for COVID-19 patients, however, North Carolina’s plan to ration care remained inadequate, according to federal regulators. NC Health News editor Rose Hoban followed the story and provided details during weekly check-in with Helen Chickering of BPR.
HC: I want to start with your take on COVID-19 trends. As the vaccine rollout continues to grow, the COVID metrics continue slowly but steadily, sometimes pausing – downward trend.
RH: After all, hospital stays are roughly under a thousand. We only had a hundred new hospital admissions across the state on Thursday, which you know is the equivalent of one per county. And we’re getting roughly where we were like in October. And if we could get roughly where we were like August, we could go a long way to overcome this. The thing that still gives me a break and that are variants. I did a couple of webinars on variations this week. And the takeaway is: people need to be vaccinated quickly. You have less opportunity to develop variants. I think what we’re going to see in the end are these disease cases across the state, let’s say a community, where there’s a kind of zeitgeist like, “I don’t want to take the vaccine for some reason” – that might be the kind of place at since if the dominant variant is in circulation, the UK variant they found to be more contagious might be more contagious, this could be a problem.
HC: The NC Health News team shed light on the differences in health care during the pandemic. And you have an article on people with disabilities. Little did I know that every state needs to develop protocols for allocating scarce resources, basically who gets the last ventilator – and proponents of disability say North Carolina protocol fell short.
RH: So this is something like what seeps away under the surface. We have published these guidelines that would allow the medical staff to say that this person does not have great long-term viability so we can code them down in our calculations. We weren’t the only state to come to this conclusion. And what happened is that the Federal Ministry of Health has this Civil Rights Office (OCR) that has put pressure on a number of other states and said, “No, we can’t use long-term survivability as a measure. That’s not okay. It’s inherently discriminatory. “
HC: They write that it took some disability attorney alarm bells to achieve a protocol change in North Carolina – away from that one-size-fits-all that was incomparable to a more individualized rationing care service.
RH: It’s a complicated subject. And it has to do with all of the things we’ve talked about this year, healthcare discrimination and disparities, and who gets it and access to care like this, it all has to do with this whole issue. I spoke to someone this morning AND she said, “You know, last year we turned this stone over and we’re looking at what’s under that stone – and it’s not beautiful.”
About Rose Hoban:
Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News and a reporter for the state government. Hoban has been a nurse since 1992 but switched to journalism after graduating in health policy and journalism. She has been reporting on science, health policy and research in NC since 2005. Contact: Editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org