DC-area hospitals avoid COVID-19 crush, for now

Many parts of the D.C. area are now experiencing a “high” level of community of transmission of the coronavirus, according to criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the period covering Aug. 4 to Aug. 10, the District, as well as Prince George’s, Frederick and Charles counties in Maryland, and Prince William, Fauquier, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Culpeper counties in Northern Virginia, were in the high category.

But hospitals in some of the affected areas seem to have avoided severe impacts from the latest surge, fueled by the delta variant — so far.

“We’re all keeping a really close eye on what’s going on in the community,” said Dr. Hasan Zia, president and chief operating officer of at D.C.’s Sibley Memorial Hospital. “Right now, we’re seeing not a huge impact on hospitalizations at Sibley.”

Additionally, “We’re not seeing the severity of illness even in those patients that do require hospitalization.”

But he remains aware that things could soon ramp up. “Historically, we’ve seen hospitalizations start to tick up maybe two to four weeks after an increase in the community prevalence,” Zia said.

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Over the last few months, he said, Sibley has had zero to three COVID-19 patients each day, and now has two to five. Those numbers were between 40 and 50 during the previous two surges, he said.

The situation is similar at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center, in Lanham, Maryland.

“We’re not seeing an over-utilization of the intensive care unit, and we’re not seeing the mortality rate that we did at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Jean Murray, the hospital’s director of infection prevention and epidemiology.

She said the hospital is now averaging nine to 11 COVID-19 patients, which is well off recent lows of zero to three patients, but far less than the average of 20 to 40 patients seen during previous peaks.

Both credit the use of vaccines for keeping people out of the hospital.

Click on the interactive maps below to see COVID-19 transmission rates for individual counties:

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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