COVID-19 case surge impacting hospitals

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The delta variant is causing some hospitals to reach their highest levels of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Hospitalization rates at Augusta Health are increasing, causing a strain on resources and staff.

“Our testing positivity rate, which is a really important indicator of public health, and the percent of patients that are coming through that are covid positive is an unprecedented 31%,” Augusta Health President and Chief Executive Officer Mary Mannix said.

According to Augusta Health, its COVID-19 inpatient census is about 30% higher than its peak in January.

“Last week, our ICU was at max capacity. All the beds were filled, and we had to use a recovery room and our emergency room for backup, critical care beds,” Mannix said.

She say there has been 11 deaths in the last week and the patients are younger than ever.

“Within a one-week period of time, we lost three patients in their 20s, and that was pretty sobering,” Mannix said.

She also says their data modeling shows this may not be the peak.

“That’s very disconcerting for us, because we are operating in what we call Surge Red, which means we’re at maximum capacity,” Mannix said. “We’ve actually applied for federal and state resources to help us, especially as we see this even higher level surge.”

Augusta Health says the Augusta County, Waynesboro, and Staunton area only has a 53% vaccination rate. That is compared to Albemarle County’s 66.1% according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital is seeing an increase in patients, but it says it has a handle on it for now.

“We’ve seen this typical pattern after a major holiday like Labor Day, so around two to three weeks, and that’s where we’re at right now,” SMJH Chief Medical Officer Paul Tesoriere said.

While patient intake has increased, Sentara says the plans it has in place are working.

“I would say we are at a larger influx than usual. We do have some strains on capacity but you know we have plans and tiered plans to manage this and really have had those in place since the beginning of the pandemic,” Tesoriere said.

Both hospitals echo the calls to get vaccinated.

“Our ask, is that we be brave, that we rise above the noise of this polarizing conversation, and that we take a position and stand united together so that we can get our vaccination rates up in this community, and we can avoid unnecessary deaths,” Mannix said.

UVA Health will have an update on its ICU numbers and cases on Friday, September 24.

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