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‘The fear we have is what’s down the road:‘ Lynchburg mayor, doctors discuss increase in coronavirus cases

Centra currently treating 36 patients in hospital, highest number since March

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Mayor MaryJane Dolan called for a news conference in City Hall on Monday to discuss the increase in COVID-19 cases in Lynchburg.

Centra’s Chris Lewis had to be the bearer of bad news at the news conference.

“I wish I could bring you good news, but I can’t,” said Chris Lewis, V.P. of Medical Affairs.

Right now, doctors and nurses are caring for 36 COVID-19 positive patients in the hospital.

“That is the highest number we’ve seen to date. As I said, it continues to increase,” Lewis said.

Sixteen people are in the ICU while 12 are on ventilators. One person died over the weekend.

All of this is leaving staff stressed out to say the least.

“Are we managing currently? Yes, but barely. The fear we have is what’s down the road,” Lewis said.

Lynchburg’s Virginia Department of Health Director Dr. Kerry Gateley said part of the problem is that not enough people are wearing masks.

Most of the region’s positive cases are with young people ages 20 to 29, many who claim they are “low risk.”

“When I’m hearing that the way that I’m responding is basically ‘Yeah, you will probably be OK,’ but you don’t have a guarantee that you won’t be the younger person who will have a bad interaction with this virus,” Gateley said.

The Virginia Department of Health website shows more than 260 cases involving this age group in Central Virginia.

Gateley said as a final plea for the public to consider and comply, “If I’m not careful then I’m putting that careful person at risk. And so, I think people need to think about that in the motivation behind the mask, the social distancing.”

Over the weekend, Lyncburg’s VDH received a $120,000 from the commonwealth to help provide testing for communities of color. They’re still in the planning stages of what these testing sites will look like.