The entire world has grown weary and yet very used to playing defense against COVID 19 as it grew through 2020 and is shooting for new peaks in 2021.
At the Western North Carolina VA Health Care System, we had been opening in the Spring and early Summer to more services being available in person and allowing visitors.
In response to rapidly increasing numbers of COVID cases, we had to make changes on Monday, Aug. 30.
The changes we have made to restrict visitation and use of an escort to your clinic appointments are designed to protect you, your families and our staff. We have instituted stricter screening at entrances and enforcement of masking and hand hygiene at entrances and around the medical center.
The Delta variant – no matter what you hear on the street or public media – is not to be taken lightly.
It killed at least 400,000 in India and is killing in the U.S. as well.
As a point of reference, on July 14, just eight weeks ago, our VA had a total of 16 active Positive COVID Veterans with only three hospitalized. Today, we have 145 Positives with 16 inpatients at VA and another 23 in community facilities.
Of those, more than 35 percent of COVID positives were fully vaccinated. Since the pandemic began, we have sadly seen a total of 147 of our Veterans die with COVID, 26 here at the medical center, 111 at community facilities and 10 at home.
Among our employees who really want to be at work to serve Veterans, we have 32 positives with two hospitalized and one death. There are a total of 74 out of work quarantined due to exposures.
The Delta variant is different, serious and very real. The Delta variant is 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the original Wuhan strain. Viral loads, a measure of how much virus is in one’s system to infect others, are about 1,000 times higher than other variants.
The World Health Organization calls the Delta variant “the fastest and fittest” variant so far.
While the symptoms of the Delta variant are initially a little milder (fever, headache, sore throat, runny nose), unvaccinated veterans contracting COVID are now more likely to get more severe illness needing hospitalization.
Clearly, those Veterans who have been fully vaccinated are less likely to be hospitalized so those who have not been vaccinated are invited to visit your CBOC or come to the Atrium of the main medical center for vaccination.
If you’re coming to the medical center and have the symptoms mentioned above or are having trouble breathing, please do not come to the front door – drive to the tent by the Emergency Room to be screened and tested rather than coming into the building.
The changes we’ve made are part of protecting all of us.
Most Veterans and employees who are positive did nothing but live their lives and had community exposures. So, we ask that you not take this lightly, that you protect yourself as much as possible and that includes getting the vaccination to avoid hospitalization and death.
We all felt a little freedom for a little while and enjoyed breathing and seeing others face to face in public. This is an ugly virus and we will continue to have our ups and downs with it.
We thank you for your adapting with us as we continue to give our all for all our Veterans.