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Hospitals see record COVID patients ahead of Thanksgiving

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 6:31 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - As families gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, health officials are warning to keep your distance to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases from getting even worse.

West Virginia had a record number of 510 people hospitalized with COVID on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice said. Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) also reported a record number of patients receiving inpatient care at its facilities for COVID, with 92 adults. That’s up from 82 on Tuesday and 67 on Monday, according to CAMC spokesperson Dale Witte.

“CAMC has seen a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 inpatients during the past few weeks,” Witte said in a statement. “This current spike in cases is not like previous surges or pre-COVID times. Hospitals cannot transfer patients to others hospitals. West Virginia hospitals and those in surrounding states are all very busy, as well.”

In an effort to prevent more hospitalizations due to the virus spreading with people gathering for Thanksgiving, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department tested more than 2,500 people during its “Operation Drumstick” event last week. If you got a negative test result, that doesn’t mean you are COVID free, Health Director Dr. Sherri Young said. Someone could contract COVID just a few minutes after getting tested and spread the virus with a false sense of security.

“Even though people are so tired of COVID, even though people want to be with their families and it is a hard time to be scaling back during a holiday, you don’t want to make a tragedy out of trying to celebrate,” Young said. “It is not going to be safe to be around a lot of elderly people, it is not going to be safe to be in a big congregate setting. Thanksgiving really does need to look a little different this year so we can get back to normal.”

Young said people should keep their Thanksgiving gatherings to only immediate family whom they live with, and masks should be worn at all times. This will prevent the current surge in cases the region is experiencing from becoming an even larger, and keep hospitals from getting completely overrun.

“Today alone, we have probably taken 5-10 new people to the hospital. Two or three have gotten out, the numbers go up and down,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said. “But, we aren’t even into it yet. We haven’t gotten the cold weather yet. We haven’t gotten the lag hit from Thanksgiving yet. We haven’t gotten the lag hit from deer hunting. You take that, the cold weather, the holiday season, flu season coming up. Everything we have worried about is coming to pass.”

The County Commission is working with hospitals to ensure they have proper staffing to make it through the surge, Carper said. A staffing shortage could become a critical issue if hospital employees catch the virus through community spread or patients they are treating.

“People are smart, they’ve got this, but we have said from day one, do not go big,” Carper said. “This is the time to probably go small. Don’t invite the COVID to your Thanksgiving dinner table. I mean, you really need to be careful.”

“As people are traveling, and we’re seeing more out of state license plates, and the airports are full, and we know that people are on the road,” Young said. “We know people are traveling for the holidays. We really hope they will keep it low-key. If not, we need them to come in an get tested afterwards.”

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is holding three COVID testing events next week to help find people who contracted the virus during the holiday. Young said they would like to see record turnout at the testing sites to get people who are positive into quarantine before they spread it through the community even more. This would likely lead to at least a partial shut down of businesses.

“Multiple businesses will be closed because they don’t have the staff, multiple businesses will be closed because they can’t keep people there or they have positives and they can’t open,” Young said. “So either we do this the right way and try to keep everybody safe, or unfortunately we could see a major surge and see a different type of shutdown coming our way.”

The testing events are as follows:

  • 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at Shawnee Sports Complex, One Salango Way, Dunbar
  • Noon until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at Elkview Baptist Church, 1150 Main St., Elkview
  • 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3 at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center, 1701 Fifth Ave., Charleston

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