With COVID-19 hospitalizations up and staffing shortages reported in Mount Rogers Health District, not all is bad

Students seem to be adjusting better this year say superintendents

This surge is seeing more hospitalizations, leading to staffing shortages.

GALAX, Va. – While the school year is starting off strong for many who attend schools in the Mount Rogers Health District, health leaders report daily case counts are increasing, hospitals are filling up and burnout is leading to staffing shortages.

Ballad Health, the healthcare system that serves that region, went from no more than 30 hospitalizations to about 170, said Dr. Noelle Bissell, the acting director of the health district, while on a call with reporters on Monday.

“They were, at the end of last week, above 160 or 180 hospitalizations, I believe. We have to remember when we are looking at the strain on our health care system, it’s not just the physical beds. A lot of health care systems have lost their workers,” explained Bissell.

If you look at some of the more populated areas in this region, the Virginia Department of Health reports an increase in positivity rates. From August 7-20, Carroll County had a 15.7% positivity rate and over that same time period, Galax had an 18.1% positivity rate.

Two of that area’s biggest school systems, which both require indoor masking, said despite these concerns, things are as they expected and prepared for this year.

Carroll County Superintendent Dr. Mark Burnette said his system has 15 positive cases with 62 in quarantine and 3,377 enrolled this year.

Burnette also said that most cases were traced to activity outside of school.

Galax City Superintendent Susan Tilley said her system has two positive cases with 15 in quarantine and 1,325 students enrolled this year.

Tilley also said that none of their cases are linked to the school system.

Both Superintendents said students seem to be adjusting better this year even with many mitigation measures still in place.

“It seems the kids are starting to settle in better. They’re more comfortable getting into the routine,” said Burnette.

“The fact that we opened on time, in-person and have all of our students five days a week for a full school day, it just feels so much more normal,” said Tilley.

On Saturday, the Mount Rogers Health District will administer COVID-19 vaccines at the Carroll County Fair.

VDH members will be on-site Friday from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Both the Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines will be available.

No appointment is necessary.

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.