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article imageCOVID-19 surge in Virginia threatens to overwhelm hospitals

By Karen Graham     Dec 20, 2020 in Health
Swamped emergency rooms and ICUs have now become a common sight in the Old Dominion, as the Virginia Department of Health reported 3,876 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 306,848.
As of Sunday, there are 4,650 recorded coronavirus-related deaths in the commonwealth since the pandemic’s beginning. That’s up from 4,643 reported Saturday, according to WDBJ7 News.
A total of 2,405 people across Virginia are hospitalized as of Sunday with confirmed or test-pending cases of COVID-19 down from 2,429 reported Saturday.
In the state's capital, Richmond's anchor hospital, Virginia Commonwealth University Health, formally deployed the next level of its surge capacity plan to prepare for the added strain the virus is putting on its resources.
And in hard-hit Southwest Virginia, healthcare workers are nearing both "physical and emotional exhaustion," according to a front-line physician at Ballad Health. A workforce firm is helping to backfill 926 healthcare jobs across the state, three-fourths of which are for the care of the state’s sickest patients.
“There’s a cost to be paid for the continued rise of this virus, and we’re starting to see that cost in our health care systems,” said Virginia Health Secretary Dan Carey in an interview, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“This isn’t theoretical. This is real. The message to Virginians is that if this rise continues, it’s going to be harder for the health system to take care of them if they or a family member or a friend were to get sick.”
While hospital beds in Virginia haven't quite reached the "panic" level, like in California, it is concerning. The state has 16,500 hospital beds, of which 13,400 were occupied Friday. However, if the virus continues unmitigated, those remaining 3,100 beds could evaporate quickly.
VCU Health
Projection from The University of Virginia
The Roanoke Times is reporting that UVA's COVID-19 model shows the post-Thanksgiving surge led to a substantial spike in virus projections for the Commonwealth.
According to the model, the new estimated peak could occur the week of Feb. 8 with 14,000 new cases per day — nearly 14 times the summer’s peak of 1,079 daily cases and almost four times the current average of 3,564 new cases per day.
“Cold weather, time indoors, and pandemic fatigue spurred by holiday travel and gatherings increase the risk of transmission. Meanwhile, the impact of new vaccines, while promising, will not be felt for several months,” said the report, which is put together weekly by a team at UVa’s Biocomplexity Institute that runs the COVID-19 model.
“If compounded with surges accompanying Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter holidays, it could be a long, cold winter.”
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