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COVID situation “dire” in Lynchburg, third in Virginia for daily case increase

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:30 AM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Officials with the City of Lynchburg hosted a live COVID-19 briefing from City Hall Wednesday. Leaders from the City, the health district, the hospital, the fire department and the school district were called upon to speak.

According to those leaders, they’ve seen a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the area, saying the situation was more critical now than it was in August of 2020. They called the situation “dire” and said new reports suggest the Lynchburg region was third in the state for daily reported cases, behind the larger metro areas of Virginia Beach and Fairfax County.

Cali Anderson, Epidemiologist for the Central Virginia Health District, said the district was counting 200 cases a day, 1,500 a week. Anderson said by early August the district’s average daily case counts increased by 500 percent from June.

Through community spread, those cases have leaked into the classroom, seeing that people age 25 and under are accounting for roughly 40% of new COVID cases, with about 20% in people younger than 18.

“Since last year when we opened school, we started with 13 [cases],” remembers Dr. Crystal Edwards, Lynchburg City Schools Superintendent. “This year, we are now up to 94 positive cases since we opened school for in person learning on August 11th. We love that we wear masks in schools, but we would also love you to wear masks in Walmart, in Kroger, all the time. If we don’t get community transmission under control, we will not be able to keep our schools open 5 days a week for all of our students.”

Centra is seeing nearly one third of its beds filled with COVID patients.

“We have more patients that need hospital beds than we have standard beds for them,” notes Dr. Chris Lewis, Chief Clinical Officer for Centra. “If you’re in a major city and you have multiple healthcare facilities, they can go on diversion and send patients to another facility that’s not as strained. Where we are here in central Virginia, we don’t really have that luxury. We are it. "

COVID cases in city workers have doubled to 14 in the last week, says Gregory Wormser, Lynchburg Fire Chief.

“Internally, we have doubled the amount of employees in the city. Overwhelmingly, the employees that are getting sick and the community that is getting sick, they’re not vaccinated.”

Just over 39% of Lynchburg City residents are vaccinated. Toward the end of this conference, officials did say that they currently have no plans to require vaccinations among city employees.

“Please do everything you can to stay healthy,” asks Dr. Lewis. “Mask up. Get vaccinated if you haven’t yet. That’s not going to change things tomorrow if you get vaccinated today. However, it will make this end sooner.”

You can watch the livestream of the briefing here:

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