SOUTHSIDE, Va. (WFXR) — For Dr. Sheranda Gunn-Nolan, one of the hardest parts of her job these days is telling dying COVID patients that it’s too late to get vaccinated.

“I do spend time clinically at bedside and the fact that I have patients begging for a vaccine when they’re taking their final breaths is obscene,” said Gunn-Nolan. “That’s where we are.”

Gunn-Nolan, the Chief Medical Officer for Sovah Health, says those death bed revelations have convinced families of the patients to finally get the vaccine.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. The problem is, what did it cost them to get there?”

Sovah Health has facilities in Danville and Martinsville, and Gunn-Nolan says they’ve taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks.

Similarly, the Mount Rogers Health District has seen the number of cases double in the past couple of weeks.

“We attribute our increase and great rise in cases to the Delta variant,” said Dr. Karen Shelton, Director of the Mount Rogers Health District.

The Delta variant is tearing its way through our communities. The much more contagious and deadlier strain of the virus is attacking young people especially hard.

Shelton says teenagers and 20-somethings are ending up in the hospital.

Gunn-Nolan has seen similar trends where she is, saying, “We’ve had 20-year-olds who’ve had strokes and heart attacks and are now on oxygen for perhaps the rest of their life.”

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the West Piedmont Health District has nine confirmed cases of Delta, Alleghany has 12, and Mount Rogers has 11, but all those are under-counts. Only a small portion of positive COVID-19 tests are actually sequenced to determine the variant.

“With the number of those that are sequenced coming back, we can say that the majority of cases we are seeing now are from the Delta variant,” said Shelton. “We came out of our masks for a long time if we were vaccinated. We need to wear them again for a short time until we see this surge in the Delta pass.”

“As someone who provided frontline care over the last year,” said Gunn-Nolan, “early in the pandemic, we can’t do it again. We can’t. We can’t do it again. So my battle cry is for the community to do their part. Mask. Get the vaccine.”

She also says as scary as Delta is, if we don’t control the virus with mass vaccination, it will inevitably mutate into an even deadlier variant.

For breaking news delivered to you, subscribe to WFXR’s breaking news email list