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Published on January 10, 2022

Triad Health Care CEOs Plead with Public as COVID-19 Surges

The CEOs of the Piedmont Triad’s leading health care systems issued an important message to the public.

Top left: Mary Jo Cagle, MD, CEO, Cone Health; Julie Freischlag, MD, CEO, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine; Carl Armato, CEO, Novant Health.

GREENSBORO – Extraordinary circumstances called for an extraordinary gathering of the leaders of the Piedmont Triad’s three major health care systems on Monday.

The CEOs of Cone Health, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and Novant Health came for a first-ever joint news conference. The CEOs offered insight into the dire effects of the pandemic locally as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.

“We want people to know that it is all of your health systems, it’s all of the hospitals in your area, and it’s more than the hospitals,” said Mary Jo Cagle, MD, CEO, Cone Health. “It is the entire safety net structure in your community being affected. And it’s going to require all of us working together to keep you safe."

The leaders pointed to emergency departments overrun with patients and hospital resources stretched to their limits. The solution, the leaders said, is for community members to get their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, wear masks in public and take other precautions to protect themselves and others.

“I think this is about everyone around you and your community,” said Julie Freischlag, MD, CEO, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine. Freischlag called on the public to especially consider the children, elderly and immunocompromised people who are most at risk.

The CEOs also recognized the health care workers who have spent the past two years working on the front lines of the pandemic. They asked the public to do more than just think of them as “heroes.”

“Today, they’re asking for more than thanks and gratitude,” said Carl Armato, CEO, Novant Health. “What they’re really asking for is for all of us – each one of us – to reduce the number of COVID cases so that they can deliver remarkable care under more reasonable circumstances.”

There were 83 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Cone Health system on Dec. 10. A month later, the Jan. 10 Midnight Census showed 250 patients hospitalized. Cagle asked the community to heed the group’s warnings as researchers expect those numbers to get worse before they get better.

“We are health care professionals, and our entire life has been about serving others and keeping our community members healthy and safe,” Cagle said. “We are telling you that we are at a point that we need the public to hear us and help us so that we can continue a mission, a mission that we take very seriously.