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Augusta Health, facing another COVID surge, pleads for help from community

Augusta HealthAugusta Health has issued an email appeal to the community to support vaccine requirements and continue to mask in public and follow social distancing guidelines in the face of an ongoing local COVID-19 surge.

“Over the past two weeks, the number of people in our community who have COVID-19 has grown to a level similar to the peak we experienced last December,” Augusta Health President and CEO Mary Mannix wrote in the email, distributed Tuesday.

“The COVID-19 inpatient census at Augusta Health is about 30 percent higher than it was at our highest point in January. As we monitor the progression of the disease in our community through multiple modeling techniques, all indications are that our COVID-19 inpatient census will continue to rise through the end of September to mid-October. As you can imagine, this creates a tremendous challenge and level of stress for the staff,” Mannix said.

In the email, Mannix reported that 215 members of the Augusta County, Staunton, Waynesboro community have died from COVID-19 since March 2020, with 23 deaths in the past month, and 11 in the past week.

According to Mannix, 85 percent of the COVID-19 patients at Augusta Health are unvaccinated.

“In order for Augusta Health to continue to effectively provide care for our community, we are appealing to everyone in the Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro area who is qualified to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to get their vaccination as soon as possible. Our community’s low vaccination rate of 53 percent has resulted in an extremely high rate of COVID-19 locally, putting severe strain on Augusta Health personnel and resources,” Mannix said.

To that end, Augusta Health has applied for state and federal resources to augment critical care staffing, according to Mannix.

“As of now, we have no information on whether these requests will be fulfilled. Without relief from federal or state clinical resources, it may be necessary for Augusta Health to transfer patients to other health systems in the Commonwealth if projections prove correct and hospitalizations continue to rise,” Mannix said.

Augusta Health is presently at near capacity and operating under “Red Surge” conditions, which means non-urgent and non-emergent procedures have been halted so staff can be redeployed to provide care for our hospitalized patients. Spaces have also been repurposed.

“On behalf of our employees and for the health of the community, Augusta Health is asking the local business community, local municipalities, church communities, civic groups, and all other stakeholder groups to support vaccine requirements for the community and continue to mask in public and follow social distancing guidelines,” Mannix said. “I am asking you specifically to take a public position, united with the position of Augusta Health, that all members of the community choose to be vaccinated. This will result in avoiding unnecessary community infections and allow Augusta Health to allocate its resources to care for those in our community with the greatest need.  Most importantly, it will help save lives and enable us to resume care for all members of the community.”

For information on how to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination, call 540-332-5122 (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday), or by visiting the Augusta Health website at www.augustahealth.com and clicking on “Click Here: For COVID-19 Information and Vaccine Availability” at the top of the home page.

Story by Chris Graham