Centra sees record numbers

Published 1:24 pm Thursday, December 3, 2020

It’s been a tough week for Centra after the health care provider saw record numbers of hospitalized coronavirus patients, but good news could be just on the horizon as officials prepare for the arrival of a vaccine.

In a Wednesday, Dec. 2, press conference, Centra officials highlighted the difficulties seen by hospitals during the month of November, particularly Lynchburg General.

According to Centra Vice President of Medical Affairs Chris Lewis, the number of COVID-19 patients in Lynchburg increased steadily throughout the month of November, with the hospital seeing its largest peak of 56 COVID patients over the weekend.

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“A peak of 56 is quite high and frankly broke all of our previous records by a good amount,” Lewis said.

As of Wednesday that figure had dropped to 32 active coronavirus patients in the hospital’s COVID unit plus 13 patients in the ICU, 10 of which were on ventilators, for a total of 45 COVID-positive patients.

Mortality rates have also increased, bringing Lynchburg General’s cumulative number of COVID-19 patient deaths to 114.

Lewis addressed concerns seen around the country that Thanksgiving celebrations could lead to an even larger surge of virus cases, remarking that the effects of the holiday may be visible toward the end of this week.

“The next one to two weeks will be pretty critical to find out if and how Thanksgiving essentially plays out for COVID and our community,” he said.

Centra President and CEO Andy Mueller said Wednesday that the organization is working with the state in preparation to become one of 16 vaccine distribution sites across the commonwealth.

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He added while officials don’t know exactly when the first vaccine will arrive on site, it could be as early as next week once authorization is received from the Food and Drug Administration.

Mueller said Centra anticipates it will prioritize distribution of the vaccine as indicated by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around frontline caregivers who are treating patients who have or are suspected to be high risk for COVID-19. While Centra will not mandate vaccination for caregivers, the vaccinations will be strongly encouraged.

He added while the health care provider does not have specific details about what distribution will look like or what amount of vaccines will be received, officials are hopeful of a full allotment.

During Wednesday’s conference, Lewis noted Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville seems to be holding its own in relation to virus mitigation, remarking that the hospital hovered around five coronavirus patients in its COVID unit this week.

“Southside actually is doing relatively well,” Lewis said. “You all have been very helpful in being able to offload at times some patients with COVID that came into say the Gretna emergency room or somewhere else that needed COVID care and we were being challenged for example at Lynchburg at that time … Southside Hospital really has been able to step up and help manage patients for the whole region.”

Officials also stated Monday that Centra is not currently considering suspending elective procedures in response to recent numbers, although the situation will be watched closely.