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Augusta Health CEO issues plea to community: ‘Please get vaccinated’

Augusta HealthThe current situation with COVID-19 at Augusta Health is “the most serious it has been since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Mary Mannix, the president and CEO of Augusta Health, in a video posted to Facebook.

“Our team members are being spread very thin, too thin, in my opinion,” Mannix said in the video, posted on Wednesday. “It’s very difficult when three people in their 20s die all within the same week. I can’t overemphasize the seriousness of this situation, and the impact it is having on the caregivers in this community.”

If there’s any good news, it’s that there’s a recent blip downward in the local COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers, though it is too early to tell if the blip is temporary or a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel.

Augusta Health reported 64 positive COVID cases diagnosed through its testing sites in the 24 hours preceding 9 a.m. Thursday, down 46.7 percent from the recent high of 120 new cases reported on Sept. 12.

The COVID patient census at Augusta Health today is at 55, down 12.7 percent from the recent high of 63 reported on Sept. 13.

These numbers correlate to data from the Virginia Department of Health, which has the seven-day average for new COVID cases in Augusta County today at 89.9 per 100,000 residents, down 35.7 percent from the Sept. 12 high of 105.6 per 100K.

Waynesboro is trending similarly downward, at 49.2 cases per 100,000 residents today, down 22.9 percent from the recent high of 63.8 per 100K rate back on Sept. 17.

The rate in Staunton has risen to a recent high, at 72.8 new cases per 100,000 residents, up 69.3 percent from the 43.0 per 100K rate back on Sept. 12.

So, the numbers are generally looking better locally, but we’re still well above the state rate of 40.2 new cases per 100,000 residents reported by VDH today.

Augusta Health has stressed in recent weeks that its internal projections suggest that the recent surge could peak in late September or the first couple of weeks of October.

What that means is, more stress on hospital staff to accommodate the surge, in addition to providing routine care.

“We’re at capacity,” Mannix said. “What that means is that we have all of our ICU beds full. We have patients that are holding in the emergency department, we have patients that are in every nook and cranny of our hospital. So, for example, we have critical care patients in our recovery room, where we have nurses and technology to care for them.

“We’re close to running out of space. What this means is that if you need hospitalization, we’ll do everything we can to care for you, but there is a chance that you might need to be transferred or moved to another healthcare system somewhere else in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Mannix said.

Augusta Health has opened a second ICU and a second emergency department, in addition to a morgue truck, and has asked for additional resources from the state and federal government.

“Please get vaccinated,” Mannix said. “It’s never been easier. Get your shot to protect people who can’t get theirs, like children that are under 12. Talk to your loved ones about getting their vaccination. Mask, distance, hand hygiene, washing your hands. The vaccine provides the greatest protection from serious illness. But even with being fully vaccinated, this delta virus is so serious that you can still experience a breakthrough infection. In fact, we are seeing people come to our hospital that are fully vaccinated. They tend to be older patients that are over 65. They tend to have other conditions like asthma, or they might be smokers, or perhaps there is a problem with being overweight, other conditions like that. These are complicating factors.

“We can all avoid these types of hospitalizations if we can get a higher vaccination rate in this community. So, whether you’re vaccinated or not, you might still fall into some of these risk categories such as age, being overweight, smoking, asthma, these conditions put you at greater risk. So please protect yourself by staying home as much as possible, masking, not going into large public areas where there’s a lot of crowding, and please get vaccinated.

“We’re doing our part. We love our community. We pride ourselves on taking care of our community. We’re asking you to please do your part,” Mannix said.

Story by Chris Graham