Valley Health is reinforcing the importance of the public getting vaccinated to prevent being hospitalized from the coronavirus.

As of Thursday afternoon, the health system reported 38 in-patients with COVID-19 at its hospitals. Valley Health operates six regional hospitals, four in Virginia and two in West Virginia.

“An overwhelming percentage of those currently hospitalized with coronavirus at Valley Health are unvaccinated and most have underlying health conditions such as diabetes and obesity,” the Thursday release states.

“The next six weeks will be really important in our push to get the community vaccinated,” said Jeffrey Feit, chief population and community health officer for Valley Health.

“We are incredibly grateful for the volunteer efforts of our vaccinated staff and will continue to partner with the health department to create access for this life-saving intervention.”

Local daily hospitalization reports from the Virginia Department of Health have been slow to paint a clear picture of the impact the virus is having on the Lord Fairfax Health District.

On March 29, the district added six new hospitalizations after several days without adding any. Since then, the district has added 17 hospitalizations including one on Thursday in Frederick County.

Though most days bring one or two new hospitalizations, the numbers quickly add up and can leave patients suffering from severe respiratory illness for days or even weeks at area hospitals.

Valley Health operates hospitals in Winchester and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah and Page, as well as Romney and Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, so its COVID-19 patient numbers are also affected by West Virginia’s cases as well as from any out-of-town patients who may become sick while visiting the area.

In addition to its 38 current COVID-19 patients, Valley Health has noticed a jump in seven-day positivity rates from mid-March until now.

The Virginia Department of Health reports a recent low of 4.5% positivity in COVID tests on March 8 and a recent high of 7.5% on March 29, the highest rate since it reported an average of 8.2% on Feb. 13.

Thursday’s seven-day average was 7.1%.

On Thursday, the health district added 57 new cases — 21 in Frederick, 14 in Warren, 13 in Shenandoah, four in Clarke, three in Winchester and two in Page.

The vaccine is the best way to help prevent an increase in hospitalizations and a fourth wave of the virus, Feit said.

An “overwhelming majority” of Valley Health’s current coronavirus patients have not been vaccinated, he said.

This is because the vaccine is highly protective against serious cases of the virus that lead to hospitalization and death.

Acknowledging that people may still be hesitant to trust a vaccine rolled out in less than a year, Feit assured that not only were the necessary studies and trials done,but that in the nearly six months since the initial vaccine approvals, the data has remained consistently strong.

“The fourth wave is going to be blunted by the vaccine,” he said.

The VDH reports that 2,912,091 people, or 34.1% of the population, statewide have received at least one vaccine dose and that 1,639,623 people, 19.2%, have been fully vaccinated.

The local health district reports that 65,422 people, or 27.7%, have received at least one vaccine dose and that 44,694 people, or 18.6%, are fully vaccinated.

Elsewhere in the region, Harrisonburg added seven new cases, and Rockingham County added 14 cases and one hospitalization.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com