Fredericksburg, Va. – As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, it is affecting states, regions, and cities very differently. In the Fredericksburg area, a population center consisting of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County and Stafford County, the repercussions of the coronavirus are just beginning to surface.
Fredericksburg’s Mary Washington Hospital has set up a fully-functional field hospital in its parking garage. The field hospital is designed to be able to accommodate coronavirus patients should the hospital run out of rooms. The location is closest to the emergency department and is expected to handle anyone needing emergency attention.
In a small city with, to date, fourteen confirmed coronavirus cases, some find the field hospital confusing
“If I get coronavirus, the worse will have already happened. If they struggle to keep people alive in hospitals, how do they plan to go about caring for people in a parking garage?” asked Jennifer Worley, an at-risk Spotsylvania County resident. “I applaud them for what they’re doing, I just don’t see how it would work.”
While measures are being taken to protect patients, health care professionals and hospital staff remain the most at-risk. One Fredericksburg-area nurse, Tracey Mallory, contracted COVID-19 while working in a Richmond-area hospital. The Caroline County resident isolated herself in her home, away from her family, and is now in recovery.
Another Fredericksburg-area hospital is facing harsh criticism from a victim’s family. Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center sent Christopher Hall home three times the week before he eventually passed away in their facility, without ever having tested him for the coronavirus. Hall, 63, was the Fredericksburg-area’s first coronavirus death. Hall’s daughters were openly critical of the hospital, “It’s like no one listened to him,” they said to the Free-Lance Star.
“That’s Spotsy (Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center) for you,” said Wanda Ortega, a former patient of the same facility.
Another Spotsylvania resident, Peter Armatis, died at SRMC shortly after Hall. Armatis was a soccer coach in the area, having coached with the Fredericksburg Football Club organization for years. Armatis, 54, was tested for the coronavirus and hospitalized upon his first visit, but the test results did not come back until Armatis had already died.
“It’s just strange because they tell you you have to be old or especially at-risk to die from it, but he was young and healthy,” said Austin Byrd, one of Armatis’s former players.
In response to the fatalities, Stafford Hospital, part of the Mary Washington Healthcare system, has opened a drive-through coronavirus testing site. Tests are available to all Stafford County residents, but are administered by appointment only. The Mary Washington Healthcare system also plans to open a drive through testing site at its King George County location within the next few days.
Vaughn Samuel, a Stafford County resident, said, “It’s nice to see someone being so proactive in making sure we’re safe and prepared for the virus. It feels like we’re always one step behind everything, so this feels like being a step ahead.”