A two-week shutdown may be needed after Thanksgiving to contain the spread of COVID-19 before the December holidays, according to a team of RAND researchers tasked with reviewing available information on COVID-19 models.
In the Nov. 19 update, researchers also stated the risk of spreading the virus during holiday gatherings will vary by group size and region, with factors like cross-border travel expected to increase the risk.
While recent restrictions of mask mandates and business closures may slow the rate of spread, researchers noted that interventions targeting densely populated housing areas, essential workers, and 18-29-year-olds could further restrict the spread, and that the health care system may need to take steps to enhance capacity.
According to a release from Sovah Health, which maintains campuses in Martinsville and Danville.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations have reached an all-time high since the health crisis began.
“Small towns and rural areas across the country and across Virginia have seen a rapid acceleration of COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks, and our hospital has felt the impact,” according to Sovah Health. “Unfortunately, the continued surge and prevalence of COVID-19 has the potential to overwhelm the local healthcare delivery system, which is why we all must do our part to protect ourselves, our healthcare workers and our communities.”
Data on the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH’s) website shows that as of Nov. 24, there are 27 outbreaks in the West Piedmont Health District, which includes Henry, Patrick and Franklin counties and the City of Martinsville.
That includes 10 outbreaks each in long term care facilities and congregate setting, two outbreaks in a correctional facility and five outbreaks in K-12 (educational) setting, the data showed.
VDH data showed 22 new cases were reported as of Nov. 24 in Henry County, 14 new cases in Martinsville, and 10 new cases in Patrick County.
With up to 40 percent of those infected showing few to no symptoms, the virus can spread quickly. Combined with cooler temperatures and the annual flu season, “we are facing what could be a particularly challenging fall and winter,” the release stated.
The health system is “prepared to handle an influx of patients and expand the capacity of our facility, if needed. We continue to closely monitor the prevalence of the virus in our community and build upon our hospital’s emergency operations plan (EOP), which maps out – among many things – our escalation plan in the event of a surge of patients,” the release stated.
“We cannot speculate on what could happen over the coming weeks and months, but we are working hard to plan for all of these scenarios and adapt our hospital operations to safely care for and support our community during this evolving pandemic,” it added.
“We strongly urge our community members to be even more diligent in their efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the months ahead. More than eight months into the pandemic, we simply cannot let our guard down – and you can rest assured that the Sovah Health team will not,” the release stated.
But the release noted, “it is going to take all of us being extra cautious and taking every possible preventive measure to change the course of the pandemic and avoid a greater healthcare and economic crisis. We call upon every community member in Martinsville and Henry County and Danville and Pittsylvania County, to lead by example — wear a mask over your nose and mouth, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and avoid group gatherings.”