‘We’re not at the finish line yet but it is so hopeful’: Carilion reflects on one year of COVID-19

Carilion has administered nearly 80,000 doses of the COVID vaccine so far

ROANOKE, Va. – Exactly one year ago Wednesday, Carilion’s first COVID-19 patient was in the hospital, but they didn’t know it yet. They didn’t get the results back until a couple of days later.

“We thought, you know, this would be like a flu season or certainly by the fall it would be gone,” said Dr. Mike Abbott, senior vice president of Operations for Carilion.

“No one really has been untouched by this virus,” said Dr. Chad Alvarez, senior director of Retail Pharmacy for Carilion.

A year after the first COVID-19 case reached southwest Virginia, leaders at Carilion are reflecting on how they’ve overcome unprecedented challenges.

“It required innovation. It required collaborating with our scientific communities to deploy new technologies to reach patients,” Alvarez said.

In the last year, Carilion has tested more than 117,000 patients for COVID-19. 16,000 of those came back positive.

The rise in the Roanoke Valley was slow and steady, never seeing any big spikes, which health leaders said is because the community listened and helped slow the spread.

COVID-19 reached a peak in southwest Virginia in January with 450 hospitalizations. As of Wednesday, that’s down about 70%.

“Behind every number is a person and I think the more COVID spread, the more these numbers became people that you knew or I knew,” Abbott said.

There’s more hope on the vaccine front too. Carilion has administered nearly 80,000 doses so far. Alvarez said appointments may be available for all by late-April.

“We’re not at the finish line yet but it is so hopeful,” Abbott said.

They’re urging people to keep fighting and crediting the community for doing their part.

“The community matters for the support that they provide, the masks that they wear, washing their hands, they can all be difference makers just like our frontline health workers that we see their dedication every day,” Alvarez said.

“It has been a tough year but I think the only way we get through challenges like this is together,” Abbott said.

At this point last year, Carilion was just getting ready to suspend all elective surgeries and put massive construction projects on hold. That’s all now back on track.


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