Unvaccinated individuals account for nearly all COVID deaths in SWVA since January


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The vast majority of COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in southwest Virginia since Jan. 21, 2021, have occurred among unvaccinated people, according to a tracking portal from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

Since January, and as of Friday, July 16, there have been approximately 30,095 COVID cases in Virginia’s southwest region — which includes the Lynchburg metro area, as well as locations south and west of Lynchburg.

Of those, only 215 were fully vaccinated, less than one percent of the total cases.

“We can’t walk away from this disease yet, because it’s not walking away from us,” said Dr. Chris Lewis, the Chief Clinical Officer of Centra, which owns a number of health facilities in the region, including Lynchburg General Hospital.

Dr. Lewis says for two days in mid-June, Centra did not have a single COVID-19 patient.

“Since then things have trended in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Lewis. “Current state this afternoon, we have 13 COVID positive patients.”

Six of those 13 — about half — are in the intensive care unit, and four of those ICU patients are on ventilators.

Currently, Centra’s youngest hospitalized patient is 29, according to Dr. Lewis.

“You can get sick with COVID even if you’re vaccinated,” said Dr. Lewis. “It’s very unusual to get that, and when you get sick with COVID, it seems much less severe.”

No vaccine is 100% effective, but Dr. Lewis says even the few coronavirus cases among vaccinated people are generally a lot milder and more manageable. He says the few serious vaccinated cases involve other illnesses not related to COVID-19.

According to Dr. Lewis, the people who are hospitalized with COVID come in for other reasons, like issues with diabetes or dialysis.

“We haven’t, though, seen any critically ill patients where we see the typical signs and symptoms of COVID disease really hurting them, as in the lungs that get inflamed full of fluid, need ventilation, that sort of thing.”

According to the VDH, in our region, about 99-percent of all cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are among unvaccinated people, which matches nationwide trends.

“So, the evidence is there, the proof is there, this is working, and it’s saving lives,” said Dr. Lindsey Lockewood, the public information officer for the Central Virginia Health District. “So, my only last comment would be once again to please urge people to go ahead and get their vaccination.”

Dr. Lewis says over the past year and a half, the methods used to treat patients with COVID-19 have not come nearly as far as preventative measures, like the vaccine, have.

“If you look at prevention and treatment, the winner here is prevention,” said Dr. Lewis. “It’s just don’t get sick in the first place. Get vaccinated. And it’s also prevention of getting really sick with vaccines. It’s the prevention game.”

You’re advised to still wear a mask if you’re not fully vaccinated.

Dr. Lewis recommends everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated, saying it’s the best way to prevent the need for any future lockdowns or restrictions.

The coronavirus vaccine is free for all. Learn more about how to get vaccinated here.

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