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What's causing Virginia's spike in COVID hospitalizations: 'We have seen a nearly 200% increase'

Posted at 4:24 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 17:17:19-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported its highest daily number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic on Friday.

There are 3,329 people in the Commonwealth hospitalized with COVID-19 or have a test pending, according to the VHHA. The previous high mark of 3,201 was reached in January 2021, before a COVID vaccine was widely available.

VHHA spokesperson Julian Walker said the increase has been rapid.

"We have seen a nearly 200% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in just the last month," Walker said.

So what has caused the most recent spike?

Walker pointed to a variety of factors including people out and interacting more than last year, the holidays, and the highly-contagious Omicron variant. Data on omicron, he noted, was still being analyzed.

"What share of it is attributable to Omicron versus what share it is attributable to Delta versus what share is attributable to other variants," he said.

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RELATED: 18,300+ new COVID cases reported Friday, Jan. 7

Walker said Central Virginia is one of the top three regions of Virginia seeing the highest increase in COVID-related hospitalizations. He said those being hospitalized tend to be older and either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated with a booster.

"If you do happen to have a breakthrough case, and we readily acknowledge that breakthrough cases are our reality and they do occur, you're still going to have more protection from a serious case of illness that potentially leads to hospitalization or worse health outcome," Walker said.

Hospital resources and staffing, he said, are feeling an incredible strain from this latest surge of COVID patients.

"We could get to the point where the system really is strained to its limits. And that's something that we don't want to see," he said about the current wave.

Along with getting vaccinated, Walker said the VHHA has asked people to not go to the emergency room for minor illnesses or to get a COVID test. He said while not directly tied to hospitalizations, people who do show up can take away resources and staff time from others.