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Virginia Sets New Daily Record for COVID-19 Cases, Ballad Health Hits 97% ICU Capacity

Virginia Dept. of Health

Virginia added 4,398 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. That is the highest daily case count recorded since the pandemic’s onset, according to the state's Department of Health.

Virginia's positivity rate hit 10.9%.  In nearly all of the state's local health districts, the 7-day average of new cases is higher now than in any other point during the pandemic.

Governor Ralph Northam will hold a briefing on the state's effort to slow the surge at 2:00 Thursday.  It's unclear if Northam will announce any new steps or restrictions.

Only 12 Ballad Health ICU Beds Not In Use

About 97% of Ballad Health’s intensive care unit beds are in use.  That means there are only about 12 ICU beds available in its service area of southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.

Ballad set a new record Wednesday with 306 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and a positivity rate of 27%.

Jamie Swift, the hospital’s infection prevention officer, says the numbers show just how widespread COVID-19 is in that region.  "We are seeing more and more cases saying that they did everything right, that they’re always careful," Swift said in a weekly news conference.  "You have to remember that you may wear a mask every time you’re out.  But meeting friends for dinner is an extremely high risk event right now.  Having friends over is an extremely high risk event. Anytime you’re mixing households at this point, there’s a risk."

The positivity rate in each of the three health districts in Ballad’s Virginia service area were all over 20-percent Wednesday.  Ballad officials say they could hit 500 hospitalized COVID patients by the end of the month.  The hospital system suspended elective and non-emergent procedures earlier this week.

Richmond Mayor Suggests More Restrictions May Be Necessary

Case numbers are on the rise across Virginia, including its capital city.  During a weekly update on continued COVID-response efforts, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said officials need to review the current situation – either at the local or state level.  “I’ve always believed that we must let the data drive our decision making around this," Stoney said in an online news connference.  "And right now it seems that the data supports us evaluating whether we should be downgrading to Phase Two.”   That would mean tougher restrictions on gatherings, businesses and events.

The health district that covers the Richmond metro area has been averaging more than 70 new cases a day over the last week. Hospitalizations and ventilator use are also up markedly from numbers recorded last month.

New River Health District Seeing Thanksgiving Bump in Cases

The director of the New River Health District says that region has definitely seen a bump in cases from the Thanksgiving holiday.

But Doctor Noelle Bissell says the rise in cases directly resulting from the holiday should be starting to drop off.  "This Thursday we’re coming up on 14 days from Thanksgiving, so we’re not expecting a significant number of more cases from that.  But remember that hospitalizations and deaths will lag by weeks, so we’ll be following that closely."

Bissell says hospitals in the New River Valley have been busier because of substantial spread of COVID-19 in the community.