Leaders of the hospital system that serves the Lynchburg area called the rise in COVID-19 cases there sobering and ominous.
Nearly 150 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in the Central Virginia Health District in just the last three days, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
Centra Health CEO Andy Mueller said Wednesday the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is also going up, and he fears it will go higher. "When we start to see the community numbers rise, we expect to see more hospitalizations 2-3 weeks down the road from when we see the rise start to occur in terms of positive cases," Mueller said. "And then the deaths tend to follow that by another 2 to 3 to 4 weeks."
Lynchburg General Hospital had 34 COVID-19 positive patients as of Wednesday morning. That’s ten more than Centra reported on July 20th. 14 of those patients are in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit. Three additional patients have died since Centra's last media update on July 20th. Mueller said the hospital can quickly increase its capacity to treat more COVID-19 patients. But he warned that as the number of hospitalizations gets closer to 40, it starts to draw resources from other areas of care.
Centra officials did deliver one positive note. For the first time in months, there are currently no hospitalized COVID-19 patients at Centra’s hospital in Farmville.
Mueller and Centra Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chris Lewis reinforced the need for the community to adhere to safety practices like physical distancing, handwashing and wearing face coverings. Mueller noted that shaking hands was a sign of respect and care before the pandemic. “The reality is that we’ve got to start replacing that with another sign of kindness and respect and caring for others which is wearing a mask when we’re in public, whether we’re told to or not.”