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UVA Health COVID Update: The Bottom Line for Jan. 27, 2022

portrait of UVA Health veteran nurse Sarah Kaplan

Covid at UVA Health: By the Numbers

What You Need to Know Now: Hospital at Breaking Point

COVID's latest surge has pushed our staff and hospital units to their breaking point. Augusta Health is struggling too. Our hospital beds are filled mostly with COVID-positive patients who are unvaccinated.

"Our healthcare workers are at their breaking point. They need your help," says Wendy Horton, CEO, UVA Medical Center, and Mary Mannix, CEO, Augusta Health. They shared this urgent message in an unprecedented joint statement issued this week to the community.

In Jeopardy: Our Ability to Care For the Community

The CEOs continue: “We ask you to step up right now. Our team members are facing the most serious challenge we’ve seen during this pandemic: the Omicron variant ... This latest surge is putting our ability to care for everyone in the community who needs our help in jeopardy.

"For both of our hospitals, the vast majority of our COVID patients are unvaccinated. This has left our healthcare workers not just exhausted but heartbroken — heartbroken by caring for patients who are dying needlessly.

"We are coming together to ask you, our community members, to do your part and get vaccinated and boosted to show your respect and appreciation for our healthcare workers."

"My team and I are exhausted and weary," says Sarah Kaplan, RN, "Yet, we are all still on the frontlines taking care of really sick COVID patients. We show up, shift after shift, hoping to make a difference in our patients' lives, praying for a good outcome. We have seen so much loss … so much sadness and heartbreak."

How You Can Help During this Crisis

What We Don't Know: How Many More Will Need the Hospital

Get Vaccinated or Boosted

Our nurses and doctors are overwhelmed with caring for COVID patients who are not vaccinated.

While COVID cases seem to have peaked, the number of people hospitalized with COVID may continue to climb for the next few weeks. At UVA, we've been holding steady with about 117 hospitalized patients but we could reach 120 to 130 patients, says infectious disease specialist Costi Sifri, MD.

Bottom Line: Vaccination — Our Best Hope to End this Crisis

The #1 action you can take is to get vaccinated against COVID and receive your booster shot. Hospitalization rates for people 12 years and older who are not vaccinated are about 10 times higher than for those who are vaccinated.

Free COVID vaccines are proven to be safe and incredibly effective at preventing severe COVID. The booster is not an “extra” bonus shot; it's essential for maximum immunity against all current variants. "Forgoing the vaccination and booster, quite simply, is prolonging this pandemic," the UVA and Augusta hospital CEOs say.

"If everyone in our community who is eligible becomes vaccinated and boosted, it would go a long way toward relieving the crisis our teams are facing daily in our clinics, emergency departments, and inpatient units."

Emergency Department: When to Get Care

In this video, UVA Health's emergency department nurse manager discusses when you should seek emergency care for COVID.

View Transcript
Transcript: Hi, my name is Kate. And I'm the nurse manager at the emergency department here at UVA Health. While we're always here to support our community, we're asking for some help. During the pandemic, a lot of people have been coming in looking for just COVID tests or maybe they just have mild COVID-like symptoms. And this leads to long wait times. If you are just looking for a COVID test or if you have mild COVID-like symptoms, contact your primary care provider or visit one of our walk-in clinics. Now, if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or if your skin turns blue, gray, or pale, please seek emergency care. Ensure that you isolate, wear a mask, and wash your hands. In order to help keep our community safe, UVA Health is not allowing visitors at this time. Getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Thank you for helping us keep the UVA community safe.

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