Augusta Health Important Update:
Date: September 21, 2021
Categories: Press Release
Dear Fellow Community Member,
An important part of our mission at Augusta Health is to help keep our community healthy and informed about the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, today I am writing to provide you with an update on the pandemic and request your assistance. Over the past two weeks, the number of people in our community who have COVID-19 has grown to a level similar to the peak we experienced last December. The COVID-19 inpatient census at Augusta Health is about 30% higher than it was at our highest point in January. As we monitor the progression of the disease in our community through multiple modeling techniques, all indications are that our COVID-19 inpatient census will continue to rise through the end of September to mid-October. As you can imagine, this creates a tremendous challenge and level of stress for the staff. Since the pandemic began, sadly, 215 members of our community have died from COVID-19. During the past four weeks, 23 people have died, and in the past week, 11 people have died.
In order for Augusta Health to continue to effectively provide care for our community, we are appealing to everyone in the Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro area who is qualified to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to get their vaccination as soon as possible. Our community’s low vaccination rate of 53% has resulted in an extremely high rate of COVID-19 locally, putting severe strain on Augusta Health personnel and resources. 85% of the COVID-19 patients at Augusta Health are unvaccinated.
- We estimate the SAW community prevalence is at 1,200 COVID-19 patients, which is consistent with the highest number since the pandemic began. While we experienced similar prevalence in December 2020, the Delta variant is proving to be deadlier and much more easily spread.
- Community testing positivity rates are an important indicator of the amount of COVID-19 within a community. Johns Hopkins has stated that a testing positivity rate greater than 5% is cause for concern. In May, the WHO stated that communities should not relax quarantine measures until testing positivity rates are below 5% for two consecutive weeks. The SAW testing positivity rate is presently at 31%—the highest rate our community has ever experienced. Everyone should be aware of this number and use it to guide decisions concerning masking and attendance in crowded public spaces.
- We opened a monoclonal antibody infusion clinic Monday, September 20, 2021, for COVID-19 positive patients in the community for patients who are early symptomatic, not hospitalized, and who qualify according to the CDC criteria.
- Augusta Health is presently at near capacity and operating under “Red Surge” conditions, which means non-urgent and non-emergent procedures have been halted so staff can be redeployed to provide care for our hospitalized patients. Spaces have also been repurposed.
- Because we are operating at maximum capacity, we are working to coordinate care with health systems across the Commonwealth who are not experiencing such high prevalence rates.
- While data varies from day to day, the projected peak of this surge is projected for the end of September to mid-October.
- Just like other health care providers, we have applied for state and federal resources to augment our critical care staffing. As of now, we have no information on whether these requests will be fulfilled. Without relief from federal or state clinical resources, it may be necessary for Augusta Health to transfer patients to other health systems in the Commonwealth if projections prove correct and hospitalizations continue to rise.
To this end, on behalf of our employees and for the health of the community, Augusta Health is asking the local business community, local municipalities, church communities, civic groups, and all other stakeholder groups to support vaccine requirements for the community and continue to mask in public and follow social distancing guidelines. I am asking you specifically to take a public position, united with the position of Augusta Health, that all members of the community choose to be vaccinated. This will result in avoiding unnecessary community infections and allow Augusta Health to allocate its resources to care for those in our community with the greatest need. Most importantly, it will help save lives and enable us to resume care for all members of the community.
For information on how to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination, call (540) 332-5122 (8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mon. through Fri.), or by visiting the Augusta Health website at https://www.augustahealth.com and clicking on “Click Here: For COVID-19 Information and Vaccine Availability” at the top of the home page.
Please share this message with your contacts, civic groups and places of worship, and please remember to wear a mask in public.
Mary N. Mannix
Mary N. Mannix, FACHE
President and Chief Executive Officer