LYNCHBURG, Va. – Lynchburg is seeing an alarming increase of COVID-19 cases, and city health leaders are calling it a “dire situation.”
“[The rise in cases] makes our job harder and harder to give the care we need to,” said Dr. Christopher Lewis, chief clinical officer for Centra Health.
Lynchburg is reporting the third-highest daily case count in the Commonwealth, only behind Virginia Beach and Fairfax County, according to Virginia’s Department of Health.
In a news conference Wednesday, Dr. Lewis said Lynchburg General Hospital has 101 COVID-19 patients -- nearly one-third of the facility’s bed space.
Of those 101 patients, 20 are in ICU -- 18 of which are ventilated.
As cases increase, so do fatalities.
“In August, we had 35 total deaths. In September, as of [Sept. 15 and] only halfway through the month, we’re already at 26 deaths,” said Dr. Lewis.
This comes as the Central Virginia Health District says the vaccination rate of the Hill City and its four surrounding counties is below 45 percent. That includes Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and Campbell counties.
Lynchburg has the lowest vaccination rate of the five localities with 39 percent.
“At this time, there’s not a particular move towards mandatory vaccines for all city employees. However, I will state that with the recent FDA approval, we have seen a number of city employees coming forward who do what to be vaccinated,” said Lynchburg Fire Chief Greg Wormser.
Leaders say the unvaccinated are impacting the community, including Lynchburg City Schools.
Superintendent Dr. Crystal Edwards says between September and October of 2020, LCS started the school year with 13 positive cases. So far from Aug. 11 to Sept. 15, 2021, the case count is at 55.
“We are not seeing in-school transmission, kids giving it to one another. We are seeing the community transmission come into our schools,” said Dr. Edwards.
City and health leaders are urging people to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.