Highland Medical Center COVID Update

As the Delta variant brings COVID concerns back into focus, I spoke with the staff of the Highland Medical Center to find out the current status of the area.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Beverage:

“Recently, we have had an increase in the number of positive cases, not only in the county, but the state and the country. The vaccination rates, I believe, yesterday when we looked for Highland County, fully vaccinated is about 55%. So that leaves a pretty high percentage of individuals with no vaccines, and this more contagious variant circulating in the state of Virginia,”

The Virginia Department of Health’s COVID website does not report the number of new cases by county, only cumulative totals for the counties HMC cannot currently identify whether new cases are of the Delta variant variety.

“We have the capability to test for COVID cases – basically our test will say positive or negative, do you have COVID. The specialized variant testing must be done at larger hospital facilities and more sophisticated labs, places like UVA. When I spoke with Dr Kornegay, Virginia Department of Health, what we have decided is, if we have individuals who test positive that are fully vaccinated, the HMC team will contact her, and she will, through her epidemiology team, contact those patients to do additional testing, so that her team, the VDH team, will then contact those members and discuss how to do that additional testing. It is very expensive and requires a lot of very sophisticated equipment that HMC will never be able to have that capability within the near future, and unless a lot of the COVID testing capabilities change, I will say that variant testing will be solely on the shoulders of big hospital systems.”

Chief Operations Officer Casey Hull spoke about new procedures for visitors to HMC.

“Even though the hut is gone, all the doors to HMC remain locked, and we must continue to follow COVID protocols per CDC and VDH guidelines. This does include wearing a mask inside the facility at all times, whether you are vaccinated or not.“

“When you arrive at HMC, you will notice signs around the outside of the facility with a designated phone number to call. If you need access into the building, staff will screen you over the phone, and instruct you on how to enter the building. A staff member will meet you at one of the designated doors to take your temperature and provide a mask to you if you do not have one.”

“If you do not have a phone to call one of the designated lines,  there is a doorbell, on the locked doors.”

“As a reminder, HMC still does have all three types of COVID vaccines available. Please call to schedule an appointment at 540-468-6400.”

Dr Beverage added clarification on one of the Center’s services.

“One thing that I do want to touch on is the Wellness Center. We continue to get a lot of questions about opening the Wellness Center, as we have vaccinated individuals, and I know that the community really would like for us to open that. I think what we need to make sure everyone understands – per the CDC and the VDH guidelines, we are a health center, so everyone, number one, must wear their masks at all times, inside the Center staff and patients, and we have to follow the guidelines as a health center rather than a gym. So we are unable to open the Wellness Center, and that is for the foreseeable future as well because that area is used by the physical therapy department and the patients that they’re treating.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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