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Community spread, hospitalizations on the rise

Centra officials noted community spread and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus pandemic are on the rise in the area.

“We have over the last few days seen the highest number of COVID patients for our health system to date,” Centra CEO Andy Mueller said in a Monday, July 20, press conference.

According to Centra Chief Medical Officer Chris Thompson, the current state of the pandemic has brought on a convergence of challenges, including increased community spread, a resumption of backlogged care in which patients struggle to see their physician or get elected procedures performed and increasing difficulty with getting hospitalized coronavirus patients to post-acute care facilities, such as nursing homes, due to concerns about making sure those areas are COVID-19-free.

Thompson said there has also been a national challenge with lab turnaround time and lab availability.

Thompson also highlighted the pandemic’s effect on Centra’s caregivers, who have, for the most part, been at the fight against the coronavirus for five continuous months. Thompson said initial excitement and community support for caregivers has waned, but the pressures and physical/mental demands put on those workers has not.

He added telehealth participation has also dropped off.

“That’s going to be important in the coming months and specifically in the fall when we are going to enter into influenza season and an uncertain volume of new coronavirus cases.”

Centra Vice President of Medical Affairs Chris Lewis spoke about COVID-19 data during the meeting, explaining as of Monday Lynchburg General had 24 known positive cases, 12 in the hospital’s pulmonary unit and 12 in the ICU, with five results pending.

Lewis said, as of Monday, July 20, Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville had nine patients in its COVID-19 unit, with six known cases and three pending results.

Lynchburg General has 48 ICU beds dedicated to the coronavirus. Southside has eight.

Lewis added Centra has seen a concerning uptick in COVID-19 cases in the community, with that first uptick being displayed in the number of cases related to community spread. This was followed by an increase in Centra’s floor population of coronavirus patients, and more recently over the last week, an uptick in Centra’s ICU population.

Lewis said if this trend continued throughout the week, Centra would have been challenged facing such a large number of ICU patients.

“I will say, thankfully, as of today, we have seen a downtrend in our ICU population,” he said.

He added Centra is continually evaluating ICU data and could expand COVID-19 units to different areas of the hospitals if necessary.

Lewis also discussed cumulative data in terms of Centra’s own staff, stating that, as of Monday, July 20, 57 of Centra’s own employees had tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. He added this figure is out of the more than 8,000 men and women employed by Centra, and that it appeared none of the positive staff had ever needed to be hospitalized, and the vast majority appeared to have contracted the virus from community spread.

Fifteen Centra patients have died as a result of COVID-19, some in the ICU and others in comfort care facilities post-hospitalization.

Mueller said Monday Centra has the ability to utilize up to 100 ventilators.

Additionally, Centra has a 90-day stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all of its facilities. He added Centra’s goal is to stretch that number to 180 days.

Monday, July 20, Prince Edward County was listed by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) as having experienced a total of 241 novel coronavirus cases, up three from 238 the week prior.

Buckingham had risen from 577 cases as of Monday, July 13, to 584 July 20. Cumberland County’s VDH case count actually dropped from 61 to 60.

Lunenburg County rose from 41 cases July 13 to 43 as of July 20, and Charlotte rose from 38 to 39.

Nottoway County saw the largest jump in the district in the last week, going from 120 cases July 13 to 150 as of July 20. Amelia rose by nine cases, from 51 to 60.