Local hospitals report a COVID-positive inpatient surge

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 4:44 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Local hospitals are dealing with an increasing inpatient census as COVID-19 cases rise.

Health officials say the omicron variant is extremely contagious, and many health systems are reporting record-breaking positivity rates.

According to their website, Sentara RMH has 42 patients of COVID-19, as of Dec. 31. That’s the highest of all Sentara facilities.

From Dec. 30, Augusta Health’s COVID-positive census was 29, and it was 21 at the beginning of the week.

“We have been inundated with patients both in our urgent care centers and emergency departments. I believe yesterday we had right at 400 visits in our urgent care centers, and over 200 visits in our emergency department,” said Augusta Health’s Assistant Vice President of Professional Services, Scott Crabtree.

Crabtree said the rise in cases in the community is reflected in the health system’s COVID-19 testing positivity rate.

“Our testing positivity rate has been gradually increasing for the past several weeks. Last week it had increased up to 21% and I just looked and over the past four days, that has increased to 35%, which is the highest it’s been since the entire pandemic started,” Crabtree said.

From 9 a.m. Wednesday morning until 9 a.m. Thursday morning, Crabtree reported 171 people tested positive at their facility. Before this week, the most positive tests they’d ever had in a 24-hour window was 120.

He said that spike in cases is due to the variant’s transmissibility.

“For instance, we have 40 team members who are currently out today because of COVID, and we have another dozen or so that are awaiting results, and we take the utmost precautions here, and we’re always wearing proper PPE,” Crabtree said.

Since their resources need to go to sick patients, Crabtree said it’s best to keep emergency department visits only for emergencies.

“Emergency care visits should be preserved for those times when you have a life-threatening condition, or you’re becoming acutely ill, or you think you’ve fractured a bone, or having difficulty breathing, or may think you may be having a stroke, heart attack,” Crabtree said.

Urgent care would be a better place to go for people who are in non-life-threatening conditions, however, Crabtree said they will stop testing asymptomatic people in urgent care.

“We’ve had patients who are asymptomatic that have just come to our urgent care just wanting to know. We are directing those patients to local pharmacies or for home testing options to preserve our urgent care visits and space for patients who are actually symptomatic,” he said.

That decision comes as they re-enter their Surge Plan.

“We’re just running out of resources. We’re not really built to handle 400 patients, and what ends up happening is our symptomatic patients, time has to be split because of patients who are – rightfully so – curious, but there are probably better ways for them to get a COVID test,” he said.

With the community gearing up to celebrate the New Year, Crabtree asks you to be smart, wear a mask, wash your hands and socially distance.

“We know that people have events that they historically go to and such. We ask that people look at their options and to think very, very responsibly.”

For more information about COVID-19, visit Augusta Health’s website. If you’d like to schedule vaccine appointments, click here.

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