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WVU Medicine sees increase in COVID-19 cases system-wide

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Signs of the spike in COVID-19 cases are surfacing throughout the state including the state’s largest hospital system.

Albert Wright, president and CEO of WVU Medicine, said the increases are widespread.

Albert Wright
Photo/WVU Medicine

“In our owned and managed hospitals, we’ve got about 170 patients and about one-third of those in intensive care units,” Wright said Wednesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “It’s creeping up everywhere.”

Hospital administrators are struggling with having in-patient bed capacity and staff to manage the care as infections spread into the pool of healthcare workers, Wright said.

“Today, just in Morgantown alone we’ve got over 144 staff that are active with the virus or in quarantine and 13 of those are physicians,” he said.

Elective procedures continue since being reinstated at the end of May, but some changes are being made to ensure safety and preserve beds.

“We didn’t cancel any in-patient surgeries, but we’re trying to put off in-patient surgeries that are not urgent or emergent. So, we’ve asked some of our surgeons to look at maybe spine surgeries that could be done at later time, let’s not schedule those,” Wright said.

Over the last week at least 800 new COVID-19 cases a day have been added statewide. Wright said those new case numbers likely mean continued increases in hospitalizations, more infections within the staff and surge in clinical needs. He said WVU Medicine is looking at surge plans and contingencies.

“Some of our clinical staff that don’t work in clinical areas, so maybe a nurse that works in quality or case management,” Wright said. “We’re looking at if we need to pull them back into clinical care at some point, dusting those folks off and having them ready- hospitals can’t close.

Wright said if the surge does overwhelm their ability to respond, an approach they could employ is repurposing a larger area within the hospital as a ward.

“Fifty-five or sixty beds separated by curtains so you can watch the broader population, that’s not the way we do medicine in America in 2020,” Wright said. “But, that’s what you have to do if you get the point that you are overwhelmed which is what we’re trying to avoid.”

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