As COVID-19 hospitalizations spike, Lynchburg General Hospital eyes vaccine distribution


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — There has been a big increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Lynchburg. The number has nearly doubled since the beginning of the month, according to Centra Health officials.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 17, 35 people were hospitalized at Lynchburg General with COVID-19. Eight of them are in the intensive care unit. Of those eight, four are now on ventilators.

As hospitals expect this number to rise, they’re also preparing for possible COVID vaccines to become available.

Centra Health CEO Dr. Andy Mueller said Lynchburg General volunteered to be a vaccine distribution site once a vaccine is available. He says they have not heard back from the state yet, but they believe they’re in a good position to be one of those sites.

The COVID-19 vaccines need to be stored in cold temperatures. The Pfizer vaccine, for example, needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, as cold as winter is in Antarctica.

Mueller said they do have the necessary storage ability.

“We’ve made preparations to ensure that we’ve got greater capacity for cold storage in anticipation of the vaccine, and then how much we’ll be able to receive before it’s distributed elsewhere is still unclear to us.”

Mueller said one of the biggest causes of the recent rise in cases has been small private gatherings at home. Now, he’s worried about Thanksgiving.

“If we do see a significant amount of people who don’t cohabitate getting together for the holidays, then it probably realistically is going to increase the amount of disease we see over what we see today.”

Hospital leaders say the best bet is to continue keeping your close interactions limited to the same circle you’ve been around.

“The challenge is you’re bringing in folks often from different areas to come together and be localized for a brief period of time,” said Dr. Christopher Lewis, VP of Medical Affairs with Centra Health.

Lewis said if you do see relatives, being extra careful in the lead up to the holiday can reduce everyone’s risk of exposure.

“Limit your contacts, you do all your safety behaviors running into the holidays, you won’t be necessarily bringing COVID to the Thanksgiving table and infecting one of your loved ones from afar when they come to visit you.”

Some other ways to reduce the risk this Thanksgiving: eat outside if the weather permits, make sure there’s good ventilation indoors, and stay distanced.

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