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As COVID-19 Cases Rise, Lynchburg-area Officials Plead For Community Action

Lynchburg COVID 9.15
City of Lynchburg livestream
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Lynchburg Mayor MaryJane Dolan speaks at Wednesday's news conference.

Health officials in the Lynchburg area are warning of increasing COVID-19 case and death rates. Some localities in the Central Virginia health District are hitting positivity rates of 25% and daily case averages that are the highest since the start of the pandemic.

At Centra Health, Dr. Chris Lewis said 101 COVID patients Wednesday pushed Lynchburg General Hospital to 106% capacity. "What that means is we have more patients that need hospital beds than we have standard hospital beds for them," Lewis explained. "This results in us placing patients in non-standard places, including boarding in the emergency room." Lewis said it’s not a safe situation and limits the care they can give to other patients. Lewis described hospital employees as exhausted but determined.

In addition to the growing number of hospital admissions, Lewis noted an increase in deaths. Centra recorded 35 COVID-related deaths in August. Already this month, it's recorded 26.

Lewis and other local officials asked people to wear masks and get vaccinated to reduce community transmission and keep schools open.

Lynchburg school superintendent Crystal Edwards noted how much more of a toll COVID-19 is taking. So far this school year, the division has reported 94 positive cases. During all of September and October last year it was 13.

"So please, for your children’s sake," Edwards said, "we love that we wear masks in schools. But we would also love you to wear masks in Walmart and Kroger all the time."

Edwards noted most of the cases are being contracted out in the community, not inside school buildings. So it’s up to the community to change its behavior to help keep schools open. "We have the ability now, through wearing our mask, practicing social distancing, getting vaccinated if you can, we have the ability to stop any more educational loss for our children. We just need to do it."

Hospitalizations At Ballad Health Plateau, But Are Expected To Move Higher

In the southwest corner of the state, COVID-19 hospitalizations have plateaued, but are still at a high level.

The number of hospitalized patients at Ballad Health facilities has been hovering just below 400 for the past several days. Wednesday's number was 396, with more than a quarter of those patients in the intensive care unit.

At a weekly news conference, Ballad COO Eric Deaton said, based on the number of new COVID-19 cases in the community, they expect the number of hospitalizations to move higher and surpass last week’s record of 413. They also say the number of deaths is still growing.