(Editor’s note: On Sept. 24, Royal Examiner receive the following clarification from Valley Health regarding implementation of the “Crisis Measures” described in their original release below: Clarification: The only procedures being temporarily postponed are at Winchester Medical Center and Warren Memorial Hospital, and are elective or non-emergency cases that will not require an inpatient stay. All patients impacted will be notified by their physician or the hospital.)
In response to an inquiry about medical staff social media reports of surging COVID-19 numbers filling regional hospital Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units, Royal Examiner received a press release from Valley Health on Wednesday afternoon, September 22, announcing “Crisis Measures” being implemented to deal with the pandemic surge. Read the press release in its entirety below the two social media posts that began our inquiry. And remember, as noted in the below caption, the current Coronavirus surge that has now upped the number of lives taken to 687,459 nationwide; 12,634 dead in Virginia; and 68 fatalities in Warren County, is being called “a pandemic of the unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated”.
Winchester, VA, September 22, 2021 – Valley Health is treating an increasing number of COVID-19 patients and now the health system’s resources are being stretched significantly.
“Our caregivers have worked double shifts, nights, weekends and holidays to save patients and fight COVID-19 in our community. They have shown remarkable resiliency, but they, like all of us, are growing tired. We are asking our community to pull together and help end the spread of this virus,” said Mark Nantz, President and CEO of Valley Health.
Valley Health’s six hospitals are currently treating 140 patients for COVID-19, about 85% of whom are unvaccinated. According to Iyad Sabbagh, MD, Chief Physician Executive, the most severely ill patients are unvaccinated, underscoring the importance of COVID-19 vaccination.
“The data and scientific evidence overwhelmingly points to the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination,” said Dr. Sabbagh. “I implore residents to get vaccinated, continue to follow masking recommendations and consider implementing social distancing measures such as canceling events where the virus could easily spread. The Delta variant we are now confronting is more contagious than previous versions of this virus and is spreading rapidly in our community.”
According to Dr. Sabbagh, the daily count of hospitalized patients, their acuity level, and vaccination status changes quickly and makes it challenging to provide an accurate snapshot of how many community members are being treated across the system at any point in time.
“Within hours, our count can change dramatically. We are also seeing an increase in the number of patients being dishonest about their vaccination status, which makes it hard to share that data with our community,” Dr. Sabbagh said. He noted that patients fear they will not receive care if they share with staff that they are unvaccinated.
“Our job is to care for every individual who comes to us,” Sabbagh asserted. “While we want the public to know that vaccination is the best way to stop the spread of COVID, we also want them to know that we’re here to care for them, regardless of their vaccination status. It is our mission as healthcare providers.”
Valley Health previously reported that 97% of its caregivers have either been vaccinated or been granted medical or religious exemptions. Additionally, the health system has been very successful in recruiting new staff to fill vacancies left by employees who chose not to comply with the vaccination requirement. Valley Health has seen an increase in new hires, and overall has had a net gain of staff since announcing the policy in July.
“Our challenge is not staffing due to our COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Our challenge is the sheer number of severely ill COVID-19 patients presenting for care at our hospitals,” commented Nantz.
Valley Health’s response to the patient surge includes bringing on additional resources and implementing measures to care for patients and protect staff:
Additional ICU Capacity Added
With all available ICU beds filled last Friday, WMC opened an additional unit to accommodate the number of severely ill patients needing care. As of Sunday, there were 23 COVID positive patients in the Emergency Department with limited bed availability, and all ICUs in the region were taking 24 hours or more to accept transfers.
Hospital Visiting Curtailed
Patient visitation at Valley Health’s six hospitals is being curtailed to reduce the risk of transmission between visitors, patients and caregivers. In the last several weeks, Valley Health has seen an increase in disruptive visitor behavior, including refusal to abide by masking requirements while visiting.
Visitation exceptions are being made at Winchester Medical Center for Labor and Delivery, Mother/Baby, Pediatrics and NICU, and at all facilities for special circumstances including end-of-life care, on a case-by-case basis. Visit www.valleyhealthlink.com/visitation for updates and details.
Elective and Non-Essential Surgeries Postponed
This week, all Valley Health hospitals and outpatient surgery centers will begin postponing elective and non-essential procedures and surgeries. This will not impact procedures and surgeries for patients whose condition is emergent or urgent, as determined by their physician. This decision was made after thoughtful consideration and is consistent with the guidance being provided by governmental, clinical, and regulatory organizations.
“Our top priorities are to protect our care team and all those we are caring for,” said Dr. Sabbagh. He expressed appreciation to Valley Health’s caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve been so impressed with our team’s commitment, resourcefulness and resiliency,” he said.
“We are still all in this together,” Nantz reflected. “We can help our coworkers, patients, families and friends respond safely, rationally and thoughtfully to create the best possible outcomes. We can listen to one another, be thoughtful, kind, and understand that we are dealing with this crisis together, not separately.”
Visit valleyhealthlink.com/coronavirus for updates on Valley Health visitation policies and other service adjustments.
Valley Health is a nonprofit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, and western Maryland. As a healthcare provider, employer, and community partner, Valley Health is committed to improving the health of the region. The system includes six hospitals, more than 60 medical practices and Urgent Care centers, outpatient rehabilitation and fitness, medical transport, long-term care, and home health. www.valleyhealthlink.com
(From a Valley Health Press Release)
Virginia Colleges Launch Innovative Program to Address Teacher Shortage
Lab Schools to Train High School Students as Future Educators.
Virginia is taking a significant step towards addressing its teacher shortage with the launch of a groundbreaking partnership between Laurel Ridge Community College, Germanna Community College, and James Madison University. This initiative, part of the state’s broader College Partnership Laboratory Fund, is not just a solution to a critical issue but a beacon of hope for future educators.
The Virginia General Assembly established the College Partnership Laboratory Fund in 2022, committing $100 million to this cause. Following the success of the first lab school associated with Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Board of Education recently approved two more lab schools, including the Future Educators Academy.
Dr. Kim Blosser, President of Laurel Ridge, expressed excitement about collaborating with Germanna to operate the lab school at the Middletown and Fauquier campuses. “Our public school divisions, especially rural areas, face acute teacher shortages. This program is a step towards addressing that need, focusing on educating high school students who will eventually serve their local communities,” said Dr. Blosser.
The Future Educators Academy is a unique approach designed to bridge the gap in the teaching workforce. Students enrolled in this program will simultaneously work towards an associate degree and a high school advanced studies diploma. Moreover, they will receive guaranteed admission into JMU’s College of Education, potentially earning their bachelor’s degree in education within two years.
This accelerated and rigorous program is inclusive, targeting all students with a passion for teaching, including at-risk groups and those who have experienced pandemic-related learning setbacks. Governor Glenn Youngkin, who prioritizes establishing lab schools, highlights the program’s accessibility and commitment to educational recovery.
Dr. Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna, explained the vision behind the Future Educators Academy. “Our goal is to create a no-cost, accelerated path for students to fill teaching positions quickly. The idea is to nurture our K-12 teachers who will contribute to their home communities,” she stated.
The initiative is timely, considering the current challenges in the education sector. It offers a sustainable solution by empowering young aspirants to step into the teaching profession equipped with early training and a sense of community responsibility.
Germanna’s lab school students will begin in fall 2023, while Laurel Ridge will welcome its first cohort in fall 2025. This strategic timeline ensures a steady flow of trained educators into Virginia’s school system in the coming years.
The Future Educators Academy is a testament to Virginia’s commitment to resolving the immediate teacher shortage and fostering a new generation of educators equipped to face the challenges of modern education.
Cub Scouts Bring Joy to Pediatric Patients with Jared Boxes
Local Scouts Offer Comfort and Fun to Hospitalized Children.
Warrenton, VA – In a heartwarming act of community service, the young members of Cub Scout Pack 1166 Wolf Den from Warrenton, VA, have brought smiles and comfort to pediatric patients at Fauquier Hospital. During October, these spirited youngsters crafted and delivered handmade Jared Boxes, transforming a potentially intimidating hospital experience into joy and playfulness.
For more than two decades, over a million Jared Boxes have been distributed by various groups nationwide. Brimming with activities such as fidget toys and coloring pages, these boxes have been a beacon of happiness for young patients. The Cub Scouts of Pack 1166 have joined this noble effort, contributing their energy and creativity to this cause.
Sarah Shilling, a Cub Scout Leader, inspired her troop with the idea of this impactful service project. Her vision was to involve young children in community service in a meaningful and relatable way. The Jared Box Project perfectly aligned with this goal, empowering children to support their peers through thoughtful gifts. “I always encourage them to look for the helpers. It is empowering to have them be the helpers in this case,” Sarah remarked, highlighting the project’s positive impact on both givers and receivers.
Matthew Martinez, another dedicated leader and volunteer at Little Fork Volunteer Fire and Rescue, has witnessed firsthand the anxiety children face during medical emergencies. His involvement in the Jared Box initiative stems from his desire to alleviate these fears. “I see many kids upset and scared during transport. I wanted to do something to brighten their day and get the Cub Scouts involved,” he shared.
The effectiveness of Jared Boxes is not just theoretical. Jess Laurent, a fellow Cub Scout Leader, shared a personal story. “My son was one of the first surgical cases to be done during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Masks and COVID testing were scary, but he received a Jared Box. That act provided him comfort and helped ease his nerves,” Jess recalled, emphasizing the boxes’ reassuring presence during stressful times.
The successful delivery of these Jared Boxes in October has endowed Fauquier Health with a valuable resource. These boxes offer a sense of normalcy and fun to children facing medical challenges, thus fostering a deeper sense of community and empathy within the hospital environment.
The Cub Scouts of Pack 1166 have demonstrated that age is no barrier to making a significant impact. Through their efforts, they have brightened the days of many young patients and set an inspiring example of community service and compassion.
About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health, located at 500 Hospital Drive, Warrenton, VA, is a community-focused health system emphasizing high-quality, individualized patient care. Serving Fauquier and neighboring counties, it includes a 97-bed accredited hospital, a 113-bed rehabilitation and nursing center, an assisted living facility, a wound health center, and a wellness center offering various health programs. Additionally, Fauquier Health operates multiple specialized physician’s offices. For more information, visit FauquierHealth.org or call 540-316-5000.
Winchester SPCA Thrift Shop Ready to Show Off Its New Look at Grand Reopening, Sat. Dec. 2
The Winchester Area SPCA has expressed excitement in announcing the grand re-opening of its thrift shop on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Winchester-area community is invited to join a day of celebration and shopping at the newly renovated and revitalized thrift store located at 1944 Abrams Creek Drive, Winchester, VA.
“We are extremely grateful to the Winchester business community for supporting this endeavor,” said Lavenda Denney, Executive Director of the Winchester Area SPCA, in a recent press release. “The thrift shop is the lifeblood of our animal shelter and clinic. This revitalized space offers an improved shopping experience and directly supports the Winchester Area SPCA’s mission of providing care and compassion to needy animals in our community.”
It was noted that a grassroots effort has given the Winchester Area SPCA Thrift Shop a total transformation over the last few months. Winchester area businesses have generously funded the entire project, which includes the installation of new lighting, new display furniture, relocating the front entrance, the addition of dressing rooms, fresh paint throughout, reconfigured floor space, a coffee bar, several new merchandise sections, and new landscaping that incorporates native plants. Additionally, the exterior features a mural created by Winchester artist Sarah Gallahan.
The release acknowledged local businesses that contributed to the renovation, including Four Square Architects, BAC Dumpsters, Sunbelt Rentals, Vulcan Materials, Blue Ridge Glass and Metal, United Rentals, Sherwin-Williams in Stephens City and Winchester, Winchester Printers, Frogale Lumber, Glass Doctor, Hunter’s Head Tavern, and Ayrshire Farm. Sharon Phipps of Boyce generously donated the funds for the coffee bar, and Airynee Damewood of Upperville provided landscaping services.
Some parts of the renovation still need sponsors, however, and the Winchester Area SPCA asks other businesses and individuals interested in donating to contact Lavenda Denney for more information.
“We still have several naming opportunities available,” she added.
The grand reopening event will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., followed by exclusive in-store promotions, live music, photos with Santa and his sleigh, face painting for children, exciting raffles throughout the day, and refreshments, including hot cider, popcorn, and cookies.
“We are thrilled to invite the community to join us in celebrating the grand reopening of the Winchester Area SPCA Thrift Shop,” said Nicole Seal, the thrift shop’s manager. “If you haven’t visited us recently, you’ll find it so much easier to discover what you need and, of course, unexpected treasures!”
Shoppers can expect a wide array of merchandise, including clothing, accessories, home goods, vintage finds, pet supplies, tools, technology, and more. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the store benefit the Winchester Area SPCA’s programs and services, so each purchase involves a meaningful contribution to the welfare of animals in our community.
Save the date for Saturday, Dec. 2, and join the Winchester Area SPCA Thrift Shop for a day of festivities, community engagement, and fantastic finds – all aimed at making a difference in the lives of animals in need.
And don’t forget that our Warren County community now has its own Humane Society and Julia Wagner Animal Shelter-supporting “Pick of the Litter Thrift Store” in the southern commercial area of downtown Front Royal off Commerce Avenue at 450 South Commerce Avenue, Suite E. That location is not far from the Humane Society’s Discount Spay and Neuter Clinic on the John Marshall Highway side of that commercial area. In fact, the Pick of the Litter Thrift Store celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month, on November 4.
But for more information about the Winchester Area SPCA and its Thrift Shop re-opening, visit winchesterspca.org.
(Information from a release by the Winchester SPCA)
VIDEO: Occupant Fatality Confirmed in Friday Morning Blue Ridge Ave. Residential Structure Fire in Front Royal
On the afternoon of Friday, November 24, Warren County Assistant Fire Chief Gerry Maiatico confirmed a fatality in the residential structure fire reported that morning at 240 Blue Ridge Avenue. Maiatico said the department received reports of one occupant likely trapped inside and that remains of one human victim had been discovered inside the structure once first responders were able to access the interior of the building. Maiatico said initial efforts to suppress the fire to the point where entry and extraction could be accomplished were thwarted by the intensity of the fire.
No identity was being released, and a cause of death had yet to be determined. The remains were being sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office to attempt to confirm a cause of death. Neighbors said a lone older woman lived in the residence at the northeast corner of the intersection of Blue Ridge Avenue and Prospect Street with some pet cats, which had outside access through a pet door.
The structure fire was reported at 7:20 a.m., Assistant Fire Chief Maiatico said. The Front Royal Police Department and Loudoun County Fire Marshall’s Office assisted at the scene.
Thanks to Michael Hasty for the video footage.
Local Edward Jones Senior Branch Office Administrator Earns Professional Designation
Ginny Musil has taken a step in her development recently by obtaining the Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional(TM), or FPQP(TM), designation through the College for Financial Planning®.
“At Edward Jones, we are committed to continuous learning as we help our clients achieve the things that matter most to them,” Bret Hrbek. Ginny has worked hard to earn this designation, and I have no doubt that this additional education will benefit our clients and our branch.”
Musil has been with Edward Jones for five years. Hrbek and Musil can be reached at 540-635-8229. You may also visit their website at www.EdwardJones.com/Bret-Hrbek.
Edward Jones is a leading financial services firm in the U.S. and through its affiliate in Canada. The firm’s more than 19,000 financial advisors serve more than 8 million clients with a total of $1.8 trillion in client assets under care at the end of June 2023. Edward Jones’ purpose is to partner for positive impact to improve the lives of its clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. Through the dedication of the firm’s approximately 52,000 associates and our branch presence in 68% of U.S. counties, the firm is committed to helping more people achieve financially what is most important to them. The Edward Jones website is at edwardjones.com, and its recruiting website is careers.edwardjones.com. Member SIPC.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Southern Flying Squirrel
Imagine you are cold and hungry and you come upon a buffet of your favorite snacks! How could this young Southern flying squirrel resist? Sadly, the free meal that lured the squirrel in, turned out to be a deadly trap. By the time he was discovered, he had clearly been stuck for an extended period of time and was severely dehydrated and barely responsive.
Once admitted to our hospital and freed from the trap, this patient was started on fluids to rehydrate and housed in an incubator as he was unable to thermoregulate (process that allows your body to maintain its internal temperature) on his own.
Glue traps never provide a humane death for their victims, whether intended targets (like insects and mice) or accidental entrapments like this patient. Please do not use glue traps—there are better ways to prevent (or even humanely trap or kill) the intended targets. If you use traps of ANY type, please be sure to check those traps regularly, at least every 24 hours.
What should you do if you find an animal stuck to a glue trap?
Please DO NOT try to remove the animal yourself as this often results in lacerations, broken bones, skin tears, and death. Follow these simple steps:
- Cover the exposed adhesive with dirt/tissue/bread crumbs/crushed cereal/any other safe substance to prevent the animal from getting stuck further.
(Image: using crushed cereal to prevent this Carolina wren from getting further stuck to a glue trap.)
- Than, cover the animal with a towel to reduce stress.
- The animal, still on the trap but now covered, can now be placed into a box and transported to a wildlife hospital or licensed rehabilitator.
A quick online search will typically suggest using oil. However, don’t believe everything on the internet! Many of our most common victims (rodents, bats, birds, etc.) will attempt to groom oil off and can die from excessive oil ingestion and/or it will cause damage to their fur/feathers.
Our glue trap patient is still in critical condition and the prognosis for a full recovery is guarded. We are glad that the finders brought him to us right away, giving him the best chance of survival.
We are excited to announce that Trex Company is sponsoring our Giving Tuesday match this year! Trex will be matching donations made on Giving Tuesday by donating up to $25,000 worth of materials! As you can see in this video, much of our newer caging is set on Trex platforms. This has been a game changer for us as these cages are set off the ground and can be cleaned and disinfected much more easily than wood caging.
All of our patients, whether sick, injured, or orphaned, eventually go into our outdoor caging and this donation will allow us to repair and build new caging for the 3,500+ patients we treat each year. Though the in-kind match from Trex will be used to update our patient caging, donated funds will be used for all aspects of medical and rehabilitative care!
Help us reach $25,000 by donating on 11/28! Donations can be made through our Facebook/Instagram accounts, through our website, or by check mailed to the Center. Any donation made on 11/28 (or checks made out to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center and dated 11/28) will count towards this match! You can help further by creating your own Giving Tuesday fundraisers and asking friends to help support our mission.
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.