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Augusta Health creates second ICU, bring in tent and mobile morgue as COVID-19 cases surge

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:12 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Over the last month, COVID-19 cases in the Valley have spiked after bottoming out in June and early July.

Augusta Health says they’re expecting the rise in cases and hospitalizations to continue throughout the rest of the month.

“Most of your experts would say that what we’re experiencing right now was preventable to some degree, had we, as a united society, done everything that we could,” said Augusta Health’s Assistant Vice President of Professional Services Scott Crabtree.

Crabtree says the positivity rate hasn’t only increased, but it’s almost quadrupled.

“We’re still on the uptick as far as COVID cases and positive COVID admissions here at the hospital,” said Crabtree.

Crabtree says they anticipate more COVID positive patients, and he adds there were 60 COVID patients as of Friday morning.

“We’re expecting the inpatient COVID census to possibly rise to around 100 over the next two to three weeks, which is scary.”

In order to accommodate so many patients, Augusta Health had to make some changes. They said in an update Thursday that they’ll hold off on some elective surgeries temporarily.

“Right now, what we’re doing primarily is trying to postpone certain procedures that are elective, especially elective procedures that require a hospital admission,” Crabtree said.

With fewer patients, Crabtree says they’re able to accept more people in need. Also, some staff have been redeployed throughout the hospital.

“Some of the closures or ramp-downs we’re doing are specifically so that we can take qualified staff from one area and send them some place else in the hospital to assist where maybe the need is greater,” Crabtree said.

The changes don’t stop there.

“We created a second ICU over the past couple of weeks, and that has allowed us to have one ICU solely dedicated to care for COVID positive patients,” Crabtree said.

They’ve also set up a large tent next to the emergency department, and he says they’ve brought in a mobile morgue. To date, Crabtree says neither has been used, but they’re available if needed.

Crabtree says his own experiences in the community tell him why cases are increasing now.

“A lot of individuals do not seem to be taking the pandemic seriously right now, based on their seeming reluctance to wear a mask and social distance,” Crabtree said.

In a time where a lot of people are divided, Crabtree says the community needs to show support to each other.

“If you’re not necessarily going to wear a mask because you’re not concerned about getting COVID, at least wear one so you’re maybe keeping others safe or maybe your loved ones safe,” Crabtree said.

Most of all, Crabtree says it’s important to get vaccinated. The hospital took to Facebook to say that 48 patients are unvaccinated, and 12 are vaccinated.

Crabtree says most of the vaccinated patients haven’t been in the ICU, and says that reinforces the fact that the vaccine is effective at preventing severe infection.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Central Shenandoah Health District reports that 48.9% of the district is fully vaccinated. 57% of adults are fully vaccinated.

For a testing site near you, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website. To get vaccinated, visit Augusta Health’s website.

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