Northern Virginia hospitals meeting the challenge of coronavirus, Alexandria health director says

The coronavirus outbreak has presented any number of problems for many organizations, and hospitals are not immune. But hospitals across Northern Virginia are meeting the challenge, according to the director of Alexandria’s health department.

“This changes every day and will change significantly every week, but their current modeling at the hospital, and this is for all of Northern Virginia, is that they have the capacity to handle any surge that is currently modeled,” said Dr. Stephen Haering, director of the Alexandria Health Department, in an online meeting Tuesday night of the mayor and city council.

Haering said hospitals throughout Northern Virginia have enough capacity to handle a surge.

The Alexandria Health Department has confirmed seven additional cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths, raising the total number of cases to 248 — four of which were fatal.

Haering told city leaders that physical distancing, that began March 15, has helped slow the spread of COVID-19. He adds that it’s imperative there be no let up at this time.

Community spread and the lack of sufficient coronavirus testing still make the virus a serious danger.

“We’re asking people to stay at home… everyone should take the appropriate precautions,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson.

The city’s health director told elected leaders that he has joined with other health directors in Northern Virginia to request that the Virginia Department of Health provide more detailed information about the age, gender, race and ethnicity of those who are hospitalized and those who die as a result of COVID-19.

“(The) Virginia Department of Health is providing that already, but what we’re looking to do is have them provide that to us by jurisdiction,” Haering said.

If the state is not willing to break out that data by individual jurisdiction, Haering said he told state health officials the data are at least needed for Northern Virginia regionwide.

Haering said his number one priority against coronavirus remains focusing on those most at risk — the elderly.

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The city’s health department said it has provided personal protective equipment, items such as masks and disposable gloves, to staff at long term care facilities.

“We don’t just drop off the PPE, we make sure that they’re fit-tested,” Haering said.

Some of the personal protective equipment is from the strategic national stockpile, he said.

Haering said the city health department has provided specialized training in infection control to staff at eight of the city’s nine long-term care facilities.

“We go in and we teach their health care workers how to follow the best practices,” Haering said.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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