When Mary Washington Healthcare officials resume their weekly town hall sessions on Tuesday, they’ll do more than update the community on the impact the record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is having on staff and facilities.
They’ll also be asking the public for support.
“Our nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists are maxed out and could use any form of gratitude for their tireless commitment to our community,” said Lisa Henry, marketing director and moderator of the virtual town hall events.
When the pandemic was in its early stages last spring and into the summer, residents made signs, hosted drive-by parades and put together other “wonderful displays,” she said.
“If our community feels compelled, we sure would appreciate a little love sent our way for our frontline heroes,” she added.
Likewise, HCA Virginia, which includes Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, is “calling upon every citizen, business and community” to keep their outdoor lights aglow through Jan. 31 to honor those working in health care.
The recognition is not just for HCA Virginia employees, but for all doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, aids and support staff who are “weary from the physical and emotional toll they see every day,” according to a press release.
“It has been nine months of fighting, and we are all tired and ready for this to be over,” said Jael Cooper, marketing director at Spotsylvania Regional. She hoped others would keep their lights on as the holiday displays “provide a positive, emotional boost to everyone who sees them, and in this challenging year, these lights have become a sign of normalcy and hope.”
She added: “These lights will express your support—and it will remind all of us that hope has arrived, even in this darkest month of the year.
Local hospital workers are feeling the strain of caring for a record number of patients with COVID-19.
As of Monday morning, Stafford Hospital and Mary Washington Hospital, which has treated the bulk of local virus patients, had 78 people hospitalized with COVID-19. The health care system started raising the alarm about growing numbers last month, when it was seeing 60 COVID-19 patients a day, which was twice as many as during earlier peaks.
New cases being reported by the state have slowed somewhat in recent days, presumably because of a lack of testing and reporting over the Christmas holiday. Still, the number of people reported to have tested positive last week was higher than at any time during the pandemic, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
From Dec. 19–26, the state reported that another 1,283 people had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Rappahannock Area Health District, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford.
The previous record had been set two weeks earlier, when the state reported an additional 1,071 local people had tested positive from Dec. 5–12.
Cases have been skyrocketing since Thanksgiving, and fear of what impact the Christmas and New Year’s holidays will have on new infections will be discussed during Mary Washington Healthcare’s town hall. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Facebook.
Officials also will discuss any decisions on prohibiting visitors from the hospitals, Henry said.
As local cases rise, so do the number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities. There are four ongoing outbreaks locally, with deaths reported at three of them.
Heritage Hall King George nursing home is experiencing its third outbreak since March. Its current cluster includes 22 cases and fewer than five deaths.
Bickford Senior Living, a multi-care facility in Spotsylvania County, has nine cases and fewer than five deaths. When a facility has less than five fatalities, the state doesn’t report the exact number.
Fredericksburg Health and Rehab, a nursing home in Spotsylvania, is still facing an outbreak that started Aug. 27, which has included 81 cases and six deaths.
Falls Run Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stafford County has 13 virus cases, but no deaths.
Beyond the Rappahannock Area Health District, an outbreak at Westmoreland Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center has grown to 106 cases and includes fewer than five deaths. Fox Trail Senior Living, an assisted living facility in Orange County, has 19 cases and fewer than five deaths.
Two facilities in Culpeper County also are dealing with outbreaks that had not turned lethal, as of Friday when the state website had its weekly update. The Culpeper, a multi-care facility, has nine cases, and Our Father’s House, an assisted living facility, has seven cases.
Meanwhile, the positivity rate, which measures how many positive tests of all those taken, remains in double digits when health professionals prefer it to be 5 percent or less. The seven-day average for both the state and local district was 12.3 percent, as of Monday.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425