Augusta Covid Cases at Critical Levels, Surges Continue Statewide

I thanked a local RN friend last week for all she and her colleagues were doing in this latest Covid Omicron surge. “Thanks for your kind words,” she responded. “I will pass them along.”

Reading about overworked hospitals, rescue squads diverted from overfull hospitals, spiking cases of Omicron, and deaths creeping up once again, I had immediately thought of her. All around, I’ve heard of many people who have this latest Covid variant.

“We keep saying this can’t last forever … although it sure feels like it will, sometimes,” she told me when I asked how they were handling the latest surge. “We are just hoping we don’t hit the numbers that we did in August and September.”

Virginia and the nation are in the fifth surge of the pandemic after previously surging in Spring 2020, Summer 2020, Fall and Winter 2020-2021, and Summer 2021. No wonder healthcare workers are burned out.

My friend went on to say the sickest patients are the unvaccinated, something that has driven the news since omicron began emerging in December. Sadly, medical help is sought after vaccination decisions have been made. Seriously ill in the hospital, patients are suffering the consequences of those decisions. Healthcare workers on the front lines help as much as they can but are resigned to dealing with the sometimes-deadly sickness that could also leave long-haul health issues, something they have no control over by the time patients arrive in ICUs.

Today Augusta Health hospital in Augusta County released the following: “Our current #COVID19 inpatient status shows majority unvaccinated patients in critical condition. The COVID-19 vaccine still proves to be the best form of protection against severe illness and hospitalization.”

Locally, Augusta Health is on alert due to the spike. A few days ago Stuarts Draft Rescue Squad posted on Facebook:

Augusta Health has notified us that they are on diversion. What does this mean to you? The hospital is at its critical patient admission limit. We are instructed to only bring immediate life-threatening illnesses to Augusta Health at this time until 11pm tonight and then an update will be communicated. Life threatening meaning = heart attack, stroke, airway compromised patients, and other immediate life threats.

All other critical patients but stable for an extended transport that require an ICU bed – we are required to transport to another hospital such as UVA, Sentara RMH, Carilion Stonewall Jackson, etc. This takes us out of service (out of the area) longer and not readily available to help you. We are urging you to pass along this message to your friends and family to please only activate 911 for EMS if you are in true need of emergency medical care.

My understanding is that has changed but it is a fluid situation.

Likewise, UVA Health and Martha Jefferson hospitals in Charlottesville are reporting the majority of Covid-19 admissions are unvaccinated. From NBC-29:

“I think it’s very reasonable to say that between 65% and 80%, and the number varies, of the patients that are admitted with symptomatic COVID infections have not been vaccinated,” Doctor John Voss, general internist at the University of Virginia, said.

Dr. Voss has been tracking hospitalized COVID-19 patients at UVA Health since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Of the patients who are admitted with symptomatic COVID infections and have been vaccinated, almost all of them have some very serious illness that has made them immunosuppressed,” Voss said. “Most of those patients have not had boosters.”

The unvaccinated patients who are admitted to UVA Health, Voss say, have severe infection.

“They typically have COVID pneumonia, and some of those are going on to progress relatively quickly to severe forms of respiratory failure and need intubation,” Voss said.

Virginia is seeing a surge of positivity rates of Omicron overall, according to Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association COVID-19 Dashboard (VHHA), as the Commonwealth records a record number of cases and hospitalizations. Five days ago the ICU bed utilization rate statewide was 90.88 percent, not including surge beds. The pre-pandemic average was only 67 precent. Only 146 adult ICU beds were available statewide.

In the Shenandoah Valley public schools were addressing the rise in Covid cases (WHSV).

On Wednesday VHHA reported that Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg would be opening a field hospital amid the unprecedented surge of virus patients (Free Lance-Star):

Jerrianne Sheffield’s mother-in-law recently sat in an emergency room for 26 hours, waiting to be seen as she struggled to breathe.

She’d been brought to Mary Washington Hospital on a fire truck because no ambulances were available. As the older woman, who’s 78, waited with her husband—and the two did not want to be named—the couple saw dozens of elderly people around them. Even though the husband is 81 and has his own health problems, he helped other men with mobility issues get to the bathroom because no attendants were available, Sheffield said.

After a person sitting near her in-laws threw up on the floor, another person in the waiting room took a blanket, covered the vomit and pushed it aside where it sat for hours, she said.

Sheffield shared the story, not in an attempt to bash the local hospital, but to bring attention to the dire situation currently in place. Hospitals across the region, state and nation are buckling under the pressure of overwhelming numbers of COVID-19 patients.

“We certainly didn’t understand the severity that they were experiencing,” said Sheffield, who lives in Fredericksburg. “I guess it’s just hard for us to imagine that this could happen. You just don’t expect that in the United States.”

According to VHHA, Covid-19 hospitalizations are up nearly 200 percent across Virginia in the past month. They along with the Virginia Department of Health recently released a joint statement urging Virginians to utilize emergency rooms only for true medical crises to preserve hospital facilities for true medical emergencies.

Above all else, Augusta Health, VHHA, and VDH are stressing the importance of vaccinations and boosters to protect the community as well as individuals. And to help those healthcare workers who are sacrificing time with families to work long shifts helping manage overworked hospitals like Augusta Health that was recently at 128 percent capacity.

As of today, we’ve lost 842,000 Americans to Covid-19.


-Previous post on summer 2021 surge: View From the Editor’s Desk – I Talked With a Local Healthcare Worker About the Covid Surge

-CDC Updates: COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review | CDC

-Virginia Department of Health Updates and Info: Home – Virginia Department of Health

-VHHA Covid-19 Dashboard: Virginia Hospital COVID-19 Dashboard (

-NBC 12: Richmond area hospital staff ‘in crisis’ as many have no choice but to work while COVID positive

-NBC 12: Man who had COVID-19 says everything tastes like ‘rotten flesh’



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