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What does Northam’s state of emergency mean for emergency rooms?

Posted at 10:44 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 00:00:18-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - As COVID-19 cases hit record highs, Gov. Ralph Northam is taking action, declaring a state of emergency. It's to help hospitals free up resources to handle the record number of COVID hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

The Commonwealth is seeing an upward trend of COVID cases as the Omicron variant surges.

"It definitely feels overwhelming, for sure," Dr. Bruce Lo, the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, said.

Overwhelmed - that’s how local hospitals and emergency rooms are feeling. So, what does Gov. Northam's state of emergency mean for emergency room departments?

The executive order will allow hospitals to increase bed capacity and allow providers with an active out-of-state license to practice in Virginia. It also authorizes experienced physician assistants to practice without written supervisory agreement.

"He did waive requirements for licensing, which will allow us to bring in more nurses, so hopefully that will help a little bit, too," said Dr. Todd Parker, an emergency physician with Riverside Health System.

Dr. Parker says the surge in cases has caused more hospitalizations.

Riverside Health saw a total of 141 hospitalizations in one day across four different hospitals. The majority of admitted patients were unvaccinated.

"We probably will have to increase our hospital bed capacity, at least during this current crisis," Dr. Lo said.

Sentara also seeing the impact. COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to rise at Sentara hospitals in Hampton Roads.

"The day after Christmas, our emergency departments have seen a massive increase in volume at the emergency department - at some point, as high as 100% increase in volumes," Dr. Lo said.

Bot doctors say getting the vaccine is vital when it comes to avoiding severe symptoms.

"We see it day in and day out - the difference between an unvaccinated patient, a vaccinated patient who has not had the booster and then a fully vaccinated who had the booster. The difference between those patients are night and day," Dr. Parker said.

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