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Augusta Health handling early increase in COVID-19 patients

Augusta HealthAugusta Health is seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, but to date has been able to handle the increase while still operating between 60-65 percent of its treatment capacity.

The average daily census of COVID-19 patients over the past week has risen to 22 patients per day, representing 8.6 percent of the hospital’s 255 staffed, in-patient beds.

The normal hospital census is between 150 and 165 patients per day, according to a hospital spokesperson, telling us via email today that the current census has been falling within those ranges in recent days even with the increase in COVID-19 cases.

Even so, as a precaution, Augusta Health is engaging efforts to double its capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, for a total of 45 COVID-19-dedicated beds.

The move is being made as the region is just beginning to enter the start of the annual cold and flu season, coinciding with the increase in local COVID-19 cases.

Augusta Health was diagnosing an average of six new cases per day through testing in the first two weeks of October. In the past week, the daily average of new positive tests being reported at the hospital has grown to 18.

According to the spokesperson who has been communicating with us on this the past couple of days, Augusta Health is prepared to expand to additional inpatient surge capacity as needed.

The good news is that there seems to be existing capacity to tap into – roughly 90 to 100 already staffed beds even before any surge capacity would need to be engaged.

This also appears to be the case statewide, from a review of the latest numbers from the Virginia Department of Health, which reports today that Virginia hospitals are operating at 78.4 percent of their staffing capacity, with 12,920 of the state’s 16,476 hospital beds occupied, down nearly 500 from the recent high on Nov. 12, and in line with where the state’s hospitals have been dating back to early May.

COVID-19 patients represent 8.4 percent of the total capacity, at 1,392 patients in hospitals across the state today.

The state’s ICUs are also doing fine at the moment, operating at 73 percent capacity – with 1,309 people in ICUs in hospitals in the Commonwealth today, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

Of that total, 272 are COVID-19 patients, representing 15.1 percent of the overall ICU capacity.

According to the VHHA, hospitals in Virginia normally see ICU occupancy in the range of 67 percent of capacity.

Story by Chris Graham

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