LYNCHBURG, Va. – “A game-changer.” That’s what local health officials are calling the delta variant. COVID-19 cases are up 30% across Virginia from last week, and that has local health leaders sounding the alarm.
In some areas, hospitals are re-opening COVID-19 units and ICUs are nearing full capacity. While the rapid rise in critical hospitalizations is no doubt concerning, the age of people filling these beds is even more so.
“This group over the last two, three weeks is remarkably different,” Centra Health’s Dr. Jeremy Hardison says.
In the first wave of COVID-19, hospitals saw older people and those with serious health conditions falling ill at a troubling rate. As we step into a second wave, they say the delta variant is changing the game of who is at risk.
“Half of our patients are under 50,” Dr. Hardison says. “These are patients who didn’t have medical problems, perfectly fit, not on medication, working, not obese. Yet, they’re on ventilators because of the COVID virus.”
Centra Health’s Dr. Jeremy Hardison has been working with COVID-19 patients in the ICE since the first one arrived about a year-and-a-half ago.
“We’ve added another six within 24 hours,” Centra Health’s Dr. Chris Lewis says.
Lynchburg and Southside General Hospitals have re-opened COVID-19 care units. Starting this week, only one visitor will be allowed per patient in the Hill City.
Health officials worry they may soon be forced to turn patients away — something we’ve seen in other parts of the nation.
“It will put a strain on our ability to care for COVID-19 patients as well as the regular patients from our community that come in with heart attacks, strokes, things like that,” Dr. Lewis adds.
The plea is the same, even more dire. Since the delta variant is far more transmissible, health officials say it will take an even higher vaccination rate to bring these numbers down.
“You need to get the vaccine,” Dr. Hardison says. “I am begging you, please get the vaccine.”
Health officials also say they’re seeing an increase in the number of kids getting sick. More than 10% of cases are in children right now.
Doctors say the virus will look different for them with milder symptoms if any at all.