COVID-19 Surge Pressures Virginia Hospitals Already Pushed to the Brink

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Virginia reported another record day for new coronavirus infections, and that surge is putting even more pressure on hospitals in the commonwealth already pushed to the brink.

"We are seeing higher numbers than we've ever seen," Mary Washington Healthcare Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Eileen Dohmann said.

There are more COVID-19 patients in Virginia hospitals now than ever before. While doctors have found other ways to treat patients, ventilator use is also at an all-time high.

Dohmann said the numbers don't tell the story.

"I don't pay attention to the statistics that are out there published,” she said. “I look at how many people, patients we have in beds that are requiring COVID-level care, and it is scary."

Her nurses at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg are assigned to more patients than they usually see, and that's also true at Winchester Medical Center, where the mental toll on staff couples with the ongoing threat of transmission.

I look at how many people, patients we have in beds that are requiring COVID-level care, and it is scary.

Eileen Dohmann, Mary Washington Healthcare

"You know that you're being exposed to that as well as all the other tolls it's taking, and you may contract something that could lead to your death or the death of one of your loved ones,” Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Nick Restrepo said. “So, it's a reality that we haven't lived before."

Virginia distributed more than 100,000 more vaccines to the frontlines Thursday. Almost 390,000 vaccines total are available in Virginia, but fewer than 20% of them are actually in people’s arms.

While the general public waits for its turn, hospitals are preparing for the cases to continue climbing.

"We're expecting numbers to continue to increase; we're prepared,” said Dr. Jennifer Primeggia of Virginia Hospital Center. “We think that what we're seeing now is a rise in cases related to holiday gatherings and travel, and we are just getting through the Christmas and New Year’s season. We're anticipating another increase."

The Virginia Department of Health said the state’s hospital beds are more than 80% full.

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