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RCAHD: Record number of cases and hospitalizations over past week, Centra Health's staffing struggles continue

Just like other parts of the state, the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District is experiencing record high numbers of COVID infections and hospitalizations.

Doctor Cynthia Morrow is the district’s director.

“We’ve had almost 4,000 cases reported in the last week," Morrow said during her weekly update Tuesday. "We are also at record high hospitalizations for residents of our district – standing at 140 hospitalizations for this past week. And 103 of those hospitalizations are new hospitalizations.”

Morrow says there was some good news: more than 5,000 vaccine doses were administered over the last week.

Centra Health: Record number of hospitalizations, continued staffing shortages

Centra Health gave a grim update on its continued fight against COVID-19 Tuesday.

Dr. Chris Lewis is with the health system – which covers the Lynchburg area and parts of southside Virginia.

“We have actually surpassed our record previously of 131 COVID patients at Lynchburg General and BBH," Lewis said. "That was set in January of last year. And frankly, we’re actually still climbing at a fairly rapid rate, which is highly concerning.”

Lewis says caregivers are also coming down with the virus. That’s putting additional strain on the health system’s already stretched thin workforce.

Centra officials also talked about Governor Ralph Northam's limited executive order earlier this week allowing hospitals to expand their bed capacity.

Michael Elliot talked Tuesday about what that will mean for the health system. Lynchburg General – Centra’s main hospital – is licensed to operate just under 360 beds normally.

“And with the limited state of emergency, the request to be able to add beds, there’s no cap; there’s no limit to that," Elliot explained. "So we could ask for as many additional beds as necessary.”

The health system's continued staffing struggles may hamper some of that, however.

Centra has more hospitalized COVID-19 patients this week than at any time during the pandemic.

Avula: Hospitals are dangerously close to being overrun

Richmond’s health director says hospitals are dangerously close to being over-run.

Doctor Danny Avula spoke at a city news conference Tuesday afternoon. He recently returned to the job after nearly a year as the state’s vaccine coordinator.

Avula said the number of severe outcomes and hospital capacity are more important indicators right now than raw case numbers. "If our hospital capacity was not really being strained, I wouldn’t be as concerned because by and large these are causing largely mild infections and we have a large portion of our population that is vaccinated," Avula said.

He noted demand for testing is also straining right now. He expects to see that demand stay high for the next few weeks.

Nick Gilmore is a meteorologist, news producer and reporter/anchor for RADIO IQ.