The United States is experiencing a pandemic surge, with all the ICU beds in Utah being used up, worsening conditions in the Dakotas, and the threat looming that health care systems in other areas of the country will be overwhelmed, as well.
According to Dr. Richard Williams, director of the Three Rivers Health District, COVID-19 cases in Virginia have also accelerated, with a daily case count of 1,594 on Monday, a seven-day moving average of people hospitalized for the virus up to 1,283 statewide, and community transmission high in the Central and Southwest regions of the state. Altogether, since March, 208,833 Virginians have contracted the virus, 13,707 have been hospitalized for it, and 3,860 have died from it.
There has been an uptick in the Three Rivers Health District, as well, said Williams. Since last Wednesday, 113 new cases have been reported throughout the district, up from 80 new cases added the week before and 56 new cases the week before that, bringing total cases across the district to 2,483 since the pandemic began. As of Wednesday morning, a cumulative total of 149 district residents had been hospitalized for the virus, and 42 had died from it.
1st Mathews death
Mathews County has had its first death from the virus, the Virginia Department of Health reported on Tuesday. No additional information was available at press time. The number of cases in the county increased by six during the past week, to a total of 149, while the number of hospitalizations remained the same, at 12.
In Gloucester, 20 cases were added during the past week, for a total of 388, and one additional person was reported as being hospitalized from the virus, for a total of 19. The number of deaths remained the same, at three.
Middlesex County added three cases during the past week, for a total of 152, while hospitalizations and deaths remained the same, at nine and 11, respectively.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported that 1,469 people with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 were in hospitals statewide on Wednesday morning, 318 of them in the intensive care unit, and 126 of those on ventilators. Thus far, 22,594 people have been treated for the virus in Virginia hospitals and released.
There were 3,385 regular hospital beds available as of Wednesday morning, with an additional 3,695 available under the governor’s emergency order 52. Statewide, there are 2,960 ventilators, and 797 were in use at hospitals as of Wednesday morning.
Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Orders 63 and 67 were modified on Nov. 13, said Williams, limiting both public and private gatherings to 25 people, requiring face masks for everyone over the age of 5, making violations of requirements for wearing masks and physical distancing a Class 1 misdemeanor for businesses, and prohibiting on-site alcohol sales and consumption after 10 p.m. He said that the district continues to investigate concerns and complaints and to enforce executive orders “to the best of our ability” across the district, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, and the Department of Labor and Industry.
There have been several new outbreaks during the past week, said Williams, including a child care center and a private school, and there have been “worrisome increases” in cases in staff members working in schools and other facilities. However, the primary cause of community transmission still appears to be private settings and events, he said.
Williams urges residents to get vaccinated against flu in order to reduce flu case rates, ease the burden on the health care system, and lessen confusion with COVID-19 cases, “which may look just like the flu.”
Williams said that community spread is likely to get worse over the holidays if people have family gatherings and dinners with friends. He said it is best to hold virtual celebrations this year.
“Anyone not living with you, including family members living elsewhere, should be considered members of another household,” he said. “If there is no exposure, there will be no disease.”
For those who plan to have a gathering, Williams suggested that they ask any guests to strictly control their exposure for two weeks before the date of the event, limit the number of people attending, and hold gatherings outside or keep windows open and the HVAC system on continuous circulation. If inside, he said, require guests to wear masks and maintain six feet of separation at all times, avoid singing and loud talking, wash hands frequently, and limit contact with shared utensils and commonly touched surfaces. Similar precautions should be used for pets, he said.
There are two upcoming free testing events for the public in the area, each offering 150-250 tests. The first is from 2-6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30, at the Middlesex Health Department at 2780 General Puller Highway, Saluda, and the second is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7, at the Mathews Health Department, 536 Church Street, Mathews. Reservations are required for both. To make an appointment for testing, call 804-815-4191.
Dr. Williams expresses frustration with people’s response to virus
Dr. Richard Williams, director of the Three Rivers Health District, expressed frustration in his weekly report of Nov. 16 about people refusing to wear masks and social distance.
“Week after week as I write this pandemic update, the situation across the country grows worse,” said Williams. “People in close contact with each other, with no respiratory source control or protection, are spreading the virus …What will convince people to wear masks, keep distance from each other, and stay out of crowds?”
Williams said that the immediate and long-term consequences of the virus are severe for many people who contract the illness. But the greatest direct threat from the virus is that higher viral caseloads place severe stress on the health care system and place health care providers at risk from the disease itself, as well as from fatigue and stress.
“When ER and ICU beds are full, and when ER and ICU staff are sick, fatigued, and unable to go to work, there is no place for people with heart attacks, trauma, strokes and other medical emergencies to receive help,” he said. “This is the worst-case scenario that we are trying to prevent—a scenario when bad outcomes from the disease, including deaths, increase beyond those ill with COVID itself.”
Williams said that stories abound of people who have been severely affected by COVID-19 and people who have lost loved ones in the pandemic. In addition, accounts of the long-term effects of the virus, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and cognitive issues are becoming more and more frequent.
“For those of us who have lost loved ones to this disease, that loss will last as long as we live,” said Williams.
“So what does it take to convince people to protect themselves, their families, and each other by preventing the spread of this virus? We all know how to do this; we just need to do it.”