Statement of COVID-19 at Augusta Health
Over the past month, the number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed at Augusta Health has tripled. Projections indicate that this upward trend in current prevalence rates is expected to continue through at least the end of the year. This recent spike in the number of confirmed positive cases in the Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro area (www.vdh.virginia.gov) aligns with the pattern of surge now experienced around the nation. Since March, there have been 971 cases of COVID-19 confirmed at Augusta Health at inpatient and outpatient facilities, and a total of 1,832 in the Staunton Augusta Waynesboro region.
Prevalence rates are increasing amid a large community spread of the virus. The census of patients in the COVID Unit at Augusta Health has increased, and the hospital is engaging efforts that will double the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients. This is part of Augusta Health's comprehensive surge plan that has been in place since the onset of the pandemic. As a result, Augusta Health is no longer accepting new patients to our Rehabilitation or Skilled Nursing Facility units for the time being and will be reviewing the schedule for elective surgeries for on a case-by-case basis.
Because much has been learned over the past eight months about managing COVID-19 patients while safely providing care to meet all the healthcare needs of the community, the Emergency Department and all other hospital and clinical services remain safely open for patient care. Again, Augusta Health is prepared to expand to additional inpatient surge capacity as needed, and any changes to existing services will be communicated.
Safety remains a primary focus in managing the pandemic. Currently, there is a nationwide surge of coronavirus infections at hospitals across the country, and Augusta Health is not immune. Recently, eight patients and several impacted staff members in the Augusta Health Skilled Nursing Facility have tested positive for COVID-19 – and all, but one, are asymptomatic. The patients have been moved to the COVID care unit, and staff are now on COVID-19 leave. In compliance with stringent protocols in place to manage such a situation, all remaining staff and patients in the unit are being tested twice weekly, and all tracing measures have been activated to mitigate the spread and contain the exposure.
It is important to remember that a negative test result does not exclude the possibility that if someone has been exposed, they could still present with an infection for up to 14 days. As a community, we face this surge together. We must think of others, our friends and family who may be at greater risk to complications and death from COVID-19. It is imperative that we all continue to practice—every day but especially now—the precautions that have become familiar to us all: Social distancing, Masking in public, Hand washing, Avoiding crowds, traveling, and putting loved ones at risk during familial gatherings. With the increasing rate of infection in the local area, we want to remind families to not hold large gathering during next week's Thanksgiving holiday. We understand this may be a hardship; however, these social gatherings place loved ones at risk – especially for the elderly and those with chronic health concerns.
These simple and proven safeguards play a vital role in controlling the surge and reducing hospitalizations during the coming holiday season. Take care of one another as we work to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community.