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Valley Health strained by surge in COVID patients

Valley Health is seeing a surge in COVID-19 patients and cases due to the the omicron variant. The hospital system has seen a record number of COVID patients ov
Published: Jan. 16, 2022 at 9:59 PM EST
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WINCHESTER, Va. (WHSV) - Valley Health is seeing a surge in COVID-19 patients and cases due to the the omicron variant. The hospital system has seen a record number of COVID patients over the last two weeks.

“End of last week, we hit 326, it’s a little bit down this week but our in-patient volumes are very high, it varies day to day but we’re much higher than we’ve been at any other peak, we continue to have many people in our intensive care unit and on ventilators, it’s a serious situation,” said Dr. Jeff Feit, Valley Health Population and Community Health Officer.

During previous Valley Health’s two previous largest COVID surges last winter and in the Delta surge in the fall the daily number of COVID patients in the hospital topped out at 200.

As of Friday Valley Health Reported 166 hospitalized patients, 142 of whom are unvaccinated. The recent increase in COVID patients in the ICU and the number of casers in the surrounding community has strained hospital staff.

“Right now, one of the biggest challenges is that some of them are sick, we had over 400 people out either with COVID or on quarantine despite the fact that we’re almost 100 percent vaccinated, none of them are critically ill thankfully but they do miss work and that puts more strain on their co-workers,” said Dr. Feit.

While Omicron COVID cases have tended to be less severe, the variant’s higher transmissibility has caused a big increase in hospitalizations.

“The number of cases in our community is so much larger than we’ve seen with any other wave that even though a smaller percentage of people end up in the hospital the absolute number of people is higher than we’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Feit.

The volume of cases has put a strain on all levels of the healthcare system, especially COVID testing sites, which is why Valley Health is urging employers and schools not to require a negative test before a return from COVID quarantine.

“Right now the recommendation is if someone has COVID they can return to work with a mask after five days, that’s based on solid medical evidence, when employers go outside those rules and ask for those tests it clogs up our testing sites and makes it harder for us to care for people,” said Dr. Feit.

The strain on testing has been especially noticeable in rural areas where Valley Health is working to make home tests more available.

“The distribution of those home tests is coming to our rural health clinic program, so again that’s been very heavy in Page and Shenandoah County and we’ve really worked hard to continue to have access to the vaccine both in our sites and in local pharmacies,” said Dr. Feit.

Valley Health asks people around the Shenandoah Valley to be a little extra cautious in the coming weeks to help them make it through the omicron surge.

“If we can do a little more distancing, do a little more masking, keep each other safe for a few weeks and blunt this wave it will help the hospital get through the next couple of weeks until this wave starts to subside,” said Dr. Feit.

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