Local hospitals preparing for increase in COVID-19 patients as holiday season continues

Lynchburg & Central Virginia News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Concerns are continuing to rise at local hospitals across southwest and central Virginia as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations increase.

At the virtual press briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 2, Centra Health officials say the healthcare system is already seeing record-setting numbers of coronavirus cases.

“We actually peaked just a few days ago over the weekend with a number of 56 COVID-positive patients,” said Dr. Christopher Lewis, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Centra Health.

But Centra isn’t the only facility experiencing a surge in the region.

According to a collaborative report conducted by representatives from Centra, LewisGale Regional Health System, Sovah Health, and the Salem VA Medical Center, there are currently 280 hospitalized coronavirus patients in southwest Virginia — with 61 patients in the ICU and 30 patients on ventilators — as well as 27 patients under investigation.

Health officials say the next few weeks are critical, especially after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“There is a lot of concern about what does that mean when folks have gathered some — some safely and some potentially less safely,” said Dr. Lewis. “Are we going to see another increase of COVID in our communities?”

The healthcare system is already preparing for the worse. Staff members are focusing on plans to expand the capacity of beds at facilities, if needed.

“Right now it’s 70 beds for COVID, which we have certainly not needed,” Dr. Lewis said, “and we do also have the capacity to push out further if we have to.”

Lynchburg General Hospital is also looking to be one of 16 vaccine distribution sites around the commonwealth. Health officials are hoping to start operations as early as next week.

“We’re not going to mandate the vaccine for our caregivers, however we’re going to really strongly encourage it because we really truly believe that the vaccine offers the best protection,” said Dr. Andy Mueller, CEO at Centra Health.

Despite reports of several southwest Virginia hospitals having stopped accepting elective surgeries, Centra, LewisGale, and Carilion Clinic have not made that decision.

WFXR also reached out to Carilion and LewisGale regarding their concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Significant community spread in our region is always concerning. Fortunately, we have plans in place with our scalable surge model should we see an influx of patients. So far, while the number of hospitalizations has increased, it’s been a steady increase and not a rapid one, giving us time to plan and prepare. Bottom line, we’re asking the community to continue safety precautions: wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and get your flu shot.

Hannah Curtis, Media Relations for Carilion Clinic

LewisGale Regional Health System continues to have the capacity to care for all patients, including those who need to be hospitalized for COVID19 or for other medical and surgical needs. We are not stopping elective surgeries at this time. To ensure that we can continue meeting the needs of our community and avoid capacity issues as seen in some areas across the US, we encourage everyone to be especially diligent in following the CDC’s guidelines with social distancing, hand hygiene, masking, and to avoid travel during the holiday season.  

Nancy May, Spokesperson for LewisGale Regional Health System

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