Va. health care systems say public must help contain COVID-19

Experts believe the latest COVID-19 case surge will only worsen in the coming months, so hospital leaders in Virginia are again urging the public to do their part and keep the case numbers as low as possible.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which represents 110 hospitals across the commonwealth, issued a joint statement urging people to stay committed to safety guidelines, to stave off any capacity problems down the road.

“The message is just for people to stay and remain vigilant,” association spokesman Julian Walker told WTOP.

There’s concern that the upcoming holidays — coupled with the colder weather driving more people indoors — could fuel the spread of the virus.

As of Tuesday, Walker said that there are 1,392 people receiving inpatient care for COVID-19 across Virginia.

That number is “about even” with Virginia’s summer peak, but “not as high” as the spring surge, Walker said.

While they have the necessary beds and tools to handle additional patients, Walker said they would rather not go down that road with capacity concerns.

“We’re not there yet,” Walker said. “We didn’t get there this summer when we had previous peaks. Our hope is that we don’t get to that stage.”

For now, Walker said, they have “thousands of hospital beds that are vacant” that could accommodate patients.

This year, Gov. Ralph Northam relaxed rules for creating more licensed temporary hospital beds. Walker said that move led to the creation of almost 4,000 additional beds. Virginia also cleared the way for establishing field hospitals if needed in the Richmond area, Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

“If we got to a scenario where those facilities were needed, the resources and the advanced planning that went into all of that could be mobilized,” Walker said.

Health and government leaders, Walker said, are communicating on a regular basis about the next steps.

“We have been working with the state from the very beginning,” he said. “I think the state is pursuing strategies just like the hospital community, but I don’t think that work is happening in a vacuum.”

But Walker still feels strongly that the key to keeping the virus from spiraling out of control is driving home a message that the public plays a vital role.

“To encourage personal responsibility and to make people aware of the health implications of the decisions they might make,” Walker said.

The association said that it’s vital for everyone to continue taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, especially heading into the holiday season.

“We recognize there is a temptation to get lax. Please resist that urge, Virginia,” the associations said in a statement.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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