NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — As of Tuesday, 20,000 people have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina.

It’s a grim milestone for the state. Case numbers, positivity rates, and hospitalizations continue to climb. Hospitals in Eastern North Carolina have seen similar trends.

CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern has the most COVID-19 in-patients it’s seen since the beginning of the delta surge. Hospital officials said things could get worse before they get better.

“Everybody hoped that we would be in a better place by now,” said Dr. Ronald May, vice president of medical affairs at CarolinaEast. “Everybody. And when we saw things get much better in the latter part of the summer, that made everybody feel good.”

It wasn’t too long ago CarolinaEast was seeing improvement.

“Probably two weeks ago it was 30 and a couple of weeks before that it was 20,” said May. “It wasn’t that long ago we were talking about single digits.”

That’s now taking a turn for the worse.

“Our numbers today are in the mid-40s in terms of inpatients with COVID, which is higher than we were just a couple of weeks ago,” said May. “A fair amount higher than we were.

“When we saw this new surge, it just created that much more anxiety and disappointment probably as much as anything.”

May said most of these cases are likely omicron with some delta mixed in.

“We have some pretty sick folks who are not vaccinated right now,” he said. “We have people in the hospital who have been vaccinated, there’s no doubt about that, but in general, they don’t seem to be nearly as sick.”

It’s not just community members getting sick. Healthcare workers aren’t immune either.

“We can’t close our doors,” said May. “We have to take care of patients. Our staff’s been great about that, but it’s hard.”

Doctors continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. May said it won’t necessarily keep you from getting the omicron variant, but it does make a difference in how sick you get.