ER doctor fears another surge in Virginia's COVID-19 cases

Posted at 5:19 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 19:28:55-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- When CBS 6 first spoke to Dr. Carlton Stadler on March 16, 2020, about his experiences treating patients with an emerging virus called COVID-19, he predicted the worst was yet to come.

At that time, doctors confirmed 45 positive coronavirus cases and one COVID-19 linked death in Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam had announced new restrictions on social gatherings of 100 people or more, but had not yet mandated a lockdown.

“I think at the time we felt like it was a distant disease. We knew it was out there, but it didn’t really hit home,” Dr. Stadler said in an interview with CBS 6 one year later. “Very quickly we went from being very concerned about the number of ventilators we had to the number of gloves and PPE evolved into a real fear that I could bring this home to my entire family."

Stadler, who works as an emergency room physician, hospital administrator, and is a member of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, admitted the virus forced him to have tough conversations with his family. As case numbers grew and more patients died from the disease in his hospital, he made sure his life insurance policy was up to date and accessible to his wife.

“What happens if I get sick and put on a ventilator? When would I want treatment to continue?” Stadler asked. “The most dangerous thing I did all day long was walking in the front door of my house.”

Since March, Stadler has had to change his clothes at the front door and shower before interacting with his family. To this day, his greatest fear is contracting COVID-19 and getting his family sick.

“You’d wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat thinking, ‘I have a fever. I’m sick,’” Stadler stated.

One year later, nearly 600,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and more than 10,000 Virginians have died due to the disease.

However, Stadler spoke about a few positives that came to light despite the sadness and death he witnessed firsthand while treating patients in the emergency room.

“It certainly reaffirmed that I’m in the right place because we’ve seen the worse that it can be,” he explained. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Flu cases have also dramatically dropped during the pandemic. Stadler estimated that he’s diagnosed a handful of flu cases out of hundreds of patients he’s treated within the past year.

He attributed the drop in flu cases to increased mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing.

The doctor predicted that Central Virginia could see another surge in coronavirus cases as Americans travel for vacation or Spring Break.

For instance, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said many visitors “have forgotten that there’s a pandemic” as large crowds of maskless partiers were seen on beaches and at bars.

Virginia Department of Health has also reported the first cases of the South African and U.K variants of the coronavirus.

“Variants have the possibility of causing that next surge especially in our most infectious population which is young people who aren’t getting vaccinated yet,” Stadler explained.

He encouraged people to get vaccinated if offered the opportunities.

“I think the variants may lead to a third surge. But, the key is we have to get everyone vaccinated. That’s the only way to stop the disease from evolving itself,” Stadler said.