Joint Statement from Virginia Hospitals and Health Systems on Our Shared Commitment to COVID-19 Safety

November 17, 2020

As leaders of hospitals and health systems throughout the Commonwealth – and members of the Board of Directors for the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association that represents 110 hospitals in Virginia – we share a dedication to health care safety at all times, especially now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Commonwealth has already eclipsed 206,000 cases, and our hospitals have treated more than 22,000 COVID-19 patients and counting, Virginia to this point has thankfully not been overwhelmed by unmanageably high volumes of seriously ill patients straining the treatment capacity of our health care delivery system. That doesn’t mean this public health crisis hasn’t been difficult to contend with – it has been. And although hospitals across Virginia still collectively have thousands of available beds to meet patient treatment needs, everyone has a duty to act responsibly to limit the spread of infection so we don’t overwhelm our health care system. Over the past eight months, we have seen cases spike in late spring and over the summer, and we are now seeing case numbers rise again with the arrival of fall and winter approaching. At varying times, regions of the Commonwealth including Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, and more recently Southwest Virginia, have seen concerning increases in overall case numbers and hospitalizations.

As our hospitals and health care heroes continue to battle this deadly and dangerous virus, we strongly encourage all Virginians to be careful, responsible, and practice safe behaviors to protect themselves and others. Staying committed to social distancing and mask wearing can help us avoid a significant surge in COVID-19 cases that other parts of the nation are experiencing. Hospitals and health systems across Virginia are united in our commitment to safety policies and behaviors that are essential in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. After spending the better part of the year dealing with the pandemic and its public health and economic consequences, and with the holiday season approaching following months of isolation, we recognize there is a temptation to get lax. Please resist that urge, Virginia. It is vital for everyone to continue taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, hospitals have required staff, patients, and visitors to follow clearly defined safety protocols including mask-wearing, temperature checks upon facility entry, and modified visitation policies. We implore all Virginians to practice similar precautions in their daily lives: wear a mask, maintain at least six feet of distance from other people, avoid crowds, and wash your hands frequently. These safety guidelines are informed by data, science, and public health best practices. Everyone has a role in following these steps, which help keep people and communities safe.

When people are in our care, our top priorities are providing high-quality treatment and ensuring that patients and their families have a positive experience of care for themselves or their loved ones when they are hospitalized. While many Virginia hospitals have restored some levels of visitation, we have had to limit visitation capacity and hours as part of our COVID-19 response. We appreciate the public’s cooperation and patience with these limitations and encourage people to call ahead to check your local hospital’s modified visitation guidelines.

In recent weeks, we have seen COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations trending upwards in Virginia. If the trend continues, it will place greater strain on hospital team members including doctors and nurses, therapists and custodians, and food service and support staff who have bravely worked to help patients throughout the COVID-19 ordeal. Surges in infections and hospitalizations increases their risk for exposure to illness. For the good of the Commonwealth and all its communities, our goal is to avoid these scenarios.

So please, do your part to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the flu this winter, and to help prevent more illness and hospitalizations. Join us in supporting our courageous health care team members as they continue the fight against COVID-19 on behalf of patients who have become seriously ill during the pandemic. Working together, we can all help in getting this dangerous virus under control.