UPDATE 10:31 a.m.: According to representatives from the City of Lynchburg, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Centra Health, and Lynchburg City Schools, the city’s surging coronavirus cases continue to impact the community, from hospitals and schools to first responders and city employees.
Lynchburg officials say Lynchburg is third highest in the Commonwealth in terms of daily increases in coronavirus cases, only behind Virginia Beach and Fairfax County.
Cali Anderson, an epidemiologist with the Central Virginia Health District says that new case numbers for the district are averaging at 200 cases per day and 1,500 cases per week since early August. These are similar to the numbers seen in the district back in January and February.
As of Friday, Sept. 10, Anderson reported the following 14-day counting positivity rates in these localities from the Central Virginia Health District:
- 28.1 percent in Lynchburg
- 38.9 percent in Campbell County
- 27.9 percent in Bedford County
- 14.3 percent in Amherst County
- 25.2 percent in Appomattox County
As for vaccination rates, Anderson says all five of the localities in the Central Virginia Health District have less than 45 percent of their populations fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, Sept. 14, with the lowest vaccination rate being Lynchburg at 39.1 percent while Bedford County is the highest with 44.3 percent.
Between Jan. 17 and Sept. 4, the rate of COVID-19 infection among the unvaccinated was more than eight times the infection rate among the vaccinated, according to the epidemiologist.
Meanwhile, Anderson says that nearly 25 percent of COVID-19 cases are among people age 19 to 25 and while roughly 20 percent are from pediatric cases.
According to Dr. Chris Lewis with Centra Health, Lynchburg General Hospital has 101 COVID-19 patients as of this writing, of whom 20 are in the ICU, 18 of whom are intubated. In addition, two infants were born at the hospital to two COVID-positive mothers, but the babies tested negative for the virus.
The hospital has reportedly been seeing 10 to 20 new COVID-positive patients per day for the last two weeks. In addition, the hospital has reported 26 virus-related deaths since Sept. 1, according to the Centra Health representative.
Dr. Lewis also says that Lynchburg General Hospital is at 106 percent capacity as of Wednesday morning, which means there are more patients in need of beds than there are beds, resulting in patients being placed in nonstandard areas, such as the emergency room.
In fact, on Wednesday morning, Dr. Lewis says there were 14 patients in the ER while waiting on beds in the hospital.
Dr. Lewis says these high patient numbers are limiting the amount of care that hospital staff members can give to other people, such as surgical patients. The Centra Health representative urges people to get vaccinated, wear masks, and consider the level of care they really need before coming to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Dr. Crystal Edwards, the superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools, says the district is trying to keep schools open for in-person learning five days a week, but they need the community’s help in order to do that.
“Thank you to my students, thank you to my staff, families, visitors to our buildings, and everyone who has been wearing a mask over your mouth and nose, consistently and faithfully. Thank you to those who could get vaccinated and did get vaccinated. Thank you to those who continue to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Edwards. “Every little bit helps to protect our children. Let me remind you that our children, 12 and under, still don’t have an opportunity to be vaccinated, so as the adults, the caretakers of those kids in the building, we have to do everything we can to keep our children safe.”
Dr. Edwards says Lynchburg City Schools has already seen 94 positive COVID-19 cases since the school year started in August, 55 of which are just from the month of September. This is significantly higher than the 13 cases reported by the district from September through the end of October in 2020.
Besides the higher positive case numbers, the superintendent says there are a number of differences between the 2020-2021 school year and the 2021-2022 school year:
- The delta variant is impacting younger people, especially the children who are not vaccinated.
- Virginia requires schools to offer in-person learning five days a week, with the ability to shift to remote learning to control an outbreak, which would be for 10 days or less.
- The virtual academy — which already has more than 200 names on the waiting list — was designed for families who wanted their students to learn remotely for the entire year, but it is not designed to handle the number of families asking to switch their students to remote learning. In addition, students and staff members have longer in-person days this year, which does not provide enough time to handle virtual learning, as well.
- The number of students in a classroom has roughly doubled since last year.
- The district is seeing higher absentee rates this year amid because of the large number of cases and the even larger number of people in quarantine. Therefore, staff members are using their prep time to cover for other staff members who are in quarantine or to handle contact tracing.
Dr. Edwards also says that they are not seeing in-school transmission, but rather community transmission coming into schools. She urges people to not just wear masks in schools, but also at Walmart, at Kroger, and other public places where masks are not required. After all, if Lynchburg’s community transmission does not go down, the schools will not be able to remain open for in-person instruction five days a week.
Lynchburg Fire Chief Greg Wormser also spoke at Wednesday’s news conference. He says that a large number of city employees are vaccinated and are not sharing the virus amongst themselves, but they are getting the virus from the largely unvaccinated community.
According to Wormser, the number of employees who are infected with the virus as of Wednesday is more than double the number from a week ago. Many of those employees who are getting sick are unvaccinated.
Wormser says the Lynchburg Fire Department is offering outreach programs that make it easy to schedule vaccinations at businesses for their staff members.
If you have an emergency, you are encouraged to call 911, but in all other situations, you are encouraged to search for alternative sources of care, such as urgent care or primary care facilities in order to help ease the strain currently faced by Lynchburg General Hospital.
LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Officials with the City of Lynchburg, Lynchburg City Schools, Centra Health, and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) are holding a joint news conference Wednesday morning to discuss the current status of the coronavirus.
At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15, the representatives in Lynchburg are expected to discuss the continuing increase in positive coronavirus cases in the city and the impacts those rising cases have had on the community.
This briefing comes after the VDH reported 169 new COVID-19 cases in Lynchburg. This brings the city to a total of 10,060 cases, 395 hospitalizations, and 161 deaths since the pandemic started.
You can watch Wednesday’s news conference live at here at WFXRtv.com, on the WFXR News Facebook page, and on the WFXR News app.
This is a developing story.