Carilion Clinic opens tent for extra space in emergency room at New River Valley Medical Center


BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — This past weekend, Carilion Clinic set up an outdoor, climate-controlled tent at the New River Valley Medical Center to help with emergency room waiting times, which are longer than normal because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.

According to Dr. Noelle Bissell, the director of the New River Health District, the tent is necessary for when the hospital feels the strain of the pandemic from an influx in patients.

“Our hospitals are still very burdened, and this is all while they’re taking care of other things,” said Dr. Bissell. “They’re taking care of emergencies, they’re taking care of other acute problems of people who put off care for a lot of the pandemic.”

On Thursday, Sept 9, President Joe Biden released his new COVID-19 plan, mandating millions of federal workers and contractors to vaccinate. In addition, the plan requires vaccination or COVID-19 testing for employers with more than 100 workers.

Dr. Bissell says that, on top of hospitals being stretched to their limits, there is an increase in rapid testing demand, but testing is not as available as it used to be.

“I do realize people want a rapid test, they want to know right away,” said Dr. Bissell. “Those resources are really scarce, and people are having a hard time finding them, and we have limited numbers of those for special situations at health departments.”

She advises people to use testing at the health district, at pharmacies, or from doctors until rapid tests become more available.

“We do the PCR testing, and anyone can get a PCR test, and testing is accessible through the health department with a rapid turnaround of the next afternoon,” said Dr. Bissell.

Carilion Clinic released a statement on Sunday, Sept. 12 urging the community to do the following amid the pandemic:

  • Get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
  • Seek the appropriate level of care for your condition.
    • For life-threatening illnesses or injuries, call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency department.
    • For COVID-19 tests or for non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, consider primary care, urgent care, or retail pharmacy options. 
  • Take COVID-19 seriously and know what treatment is available to keep you out of the hospital, such as monoclonal antibodies.
  • When in doubt, wear a mask and practice social distancing from others.

Dr. Bissell says testing is also available through the health district. You can learn more about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in the New River Valley by clicking here.

Note: WFXR News previously said that Dr. Bissell advised people to only use health district testing until COVID-19 testing becomes readily available. That has since been corrected.

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