RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit an all-time high in Richmond and Virginia as a whole, health officials said at a press briefing Tuesday.
Dr. Danny Avula, Director of the Richmond and Henrico Health District, said 3,600 patients with COVID-19 are in hospitals statewide. He said the number of cases with severe disease at this point is the highest they’ve seen so far during the pandemic.
“This omicron variant is so contagious that we’re just seeing it spread like wildfire,” said Avula.
Health leaders are shifting their focus on severe disease and the ability of healthcare workers to treat patients.
“As I’ve talked to my colleagues in the healthcare system here in the Richmond region, all of them are struggling,” Avula said. Crisis staffing, they’re seeing their hospital wards filled up. The emergency rooms are full of people trying to get treated or to get tested.”
Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a state of emergency Monday to relieve the stress on hospitals, so they can increase bed space and staff.
Avula said it’s the unvaccinated who are filling up most of the hospitals and that hospitals nationwide are reporting about 90% of severe cases are unvaccinated people. He said although the omicron variant presents mild infections, the region’s main concern is hospital capacity.
“I no longer think that cases are the primary metric that we need to be concerned about. I think that looking at severe disease, hospitalizations, and death and then right now what we’re looking at is hospital capacity,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking people to take this seriously because our hospitals are getting dangerously close to being overrun.”
The Richmond and Henrico Health District will increase testing opportunities by holding events at the Richmond Raceway, Southwood Plaza and Eastern Henrico and Deep Run Recreation Centers.