Richmond doctors report COVID hospitalization surge comparable to January

COVID-19 coronavirus hospital nurse
Posted at 4:52 PM, Aug 28, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- While COVID hospitalizations climbed to more than 1,600 in Virginia, two Richmond-area doctors reported seeing an influx in COVID hospitalizations comparable to the January surge.

Dr. Raj Malhotra, Director of Critical Care for Chippenham Hospital and Johnston Willis Hospital, said they were seeing more COVID hospitalizations now than in the winter. He said following the January surge they saw a decline in COVID hospitalizations.

"And then we actually, for a period of time, I remember having this very, very hopeful feeling we reached a number of zero in the Richmond market for HCA in terms of hospitalized patients with COVID," Said Dr. Malhotra. "And it almost was like kind of a glimmer of hope, kind of the sun breaking through the clouds."

But now, he said that had rapidly reversed.

"The numbers are most certainly higher," said Dr. Malhotra. "We’re definitely seeing numbers going up, predominately unvaccinated patients going up at a very, very rapid rate."

At the VCU Medical Center, Dr. Michael Stevens, Interim Hospital Epidemiologist, also reported climbing COVID hospitalization rates that he said were fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.

"At VCU Medical Center, we are seeing similar hospitalization rates as in January 2021, with an average of 50 to 60 hospitalized COVID-19 patients at any given time," said Dr. Stevens. "The best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated against COVID-19."

Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia's Vaccination Coordinator, said statewide, more than 1,600 Virginians were hospitalized with COVID-19, a rate that wasn’t as high as the state's January surge, but was comparable to the first wave of hospitalizations in April of 2020.

"At the beginning of this pandemic, a lot of those individuals who were hospitalized were elderly folks with underlying conditions," said Dr. Avula. "Now what we're seeing is, it's people who are under the age of 50 because folks above the age of 50 have largely been vaccinated."

Dr. Avula believed the state would continue to see hospitalizations. He said that he hopes over the next six months, enough of the population would get vaccinated, along with the natural immunity in place for those who had already been infected, to stop the swirling of disease.

"I think what will happen is we'll see this continue to surge through August and September, we'll come down on the other side of that peak in late September or early October, but then we'll have some pretty steady rates with probably a few bumps through the winter," said Dr. Avula.

In the meantime, doctors urged the community to do their part.

"Only around 56 percent of our Commonwealth's population are fully vaccinated at this time. This is not enough to prevent a severe strain on health care systems this fall when another wave of COVID-19 infections is predicted to hit," said Dr. Stevens. "The community has an important role to play. In addition to getting vaccinated, continue to wear your mask and practice social distancing."