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Centra Health To Require COVID-19 Vaccine For Employees, New River Health Dist. Rolling Out Boosters

The main healthcare provider in the Lynchburg area will require all of its 7,600 employees to get vaccinated by November 1st.

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Doctor Michael Elliott, with Centra Health, says the requirement also includes volunteers and contractors. "Before we do anything else, we are here to heal and first do no harm. It has become more and more apparent to us as time goes on that we have a way to prevent harm and we need to take it," Elliott said during a call with reporters Monday. Central Virginia has lagged behind the state averages for vaccination. "If we're not going to lead in this health initiative in the communities we serve, who is" Elliott asked.

Officials estimate about 40% of Centra’s employees are not vaccinated. They face suspension and eventually termination if they don’t get the shots or obtain a medical or religious exemption. Centra already requires employees to get flu shots every year.

Meanwhile, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continues to grow. Forty-five people are hospitalized at Lynchburg General Hospital and nine are hospitalized at Centra’s facility in Farmville. That hospital has already expanded the capacity of its COVID unit.

Centra recorded eight COVID-related deaths over the past week, according to chief clinical officer Dr. Christopher Lewis. Two of those patients were in their 40's, four were in their 50's and two were in their 70's. Lewis said its an indication that the delta variant is more aggressive and is more dangerous to younger people than what was seen earlier in the pandemic.

NRHD Begins Rolling Out Booster Doses to Immunocompromised People

The New River Health District has begun rolling out vaccine booster doses to immunocompromised individuals following federal approval last week.

Dr. Noelle Bissell says the district is reaching out to those people – which make up about 2% of the district’s population. “But I will say that pharmacies, our community partners – we’re already being overwhelmed with people calling wanting that third shot who really don’t fall under that authorization," she explains. "Please refrain from overloading our pharmacies, our community partners, our practices and the health department seeking that third dose.”

Bissell says people who aren’t immunocompromised but are fully vaccinated are still
very well protected against severe disease, hospitalization and death. She adds that an overwhelming majority of hospitalizations and deaths in the region related to COVID remain among unvaccinated individuals.