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Virus cases show improvement

This past week was considered by many to be “the one to watch” as health officials waited to see if the Thanksgiving holiday directly resulted in a large surge in coronavirus cases.

But it appears the health district for the most part is not seeing a dramatic increase in cases.

Piedmont Health District Director Dr. H. Robert Nash said Monday morning, Dec. 7, he’d heard of incidences of COVID-19 spreading in families that got together during the holiday, but overall, the district’s coronavirus numbers appear to be holding their own.

While the district is staying safe so far, Nash said he will be paying close attention to a possible fluctuation of numbers at the end of the work week.

“I’m suspicious, and I expect that our numbers are probably going to spike up Wednesday or Thursday, the 9th and 10th, not so much (because) the incubation period has at that point run basically 14 days, but it’s more of the function of getting these cases reported to us.”

Nash said Charlotte County demonstrated marked improvement this week. The county increased 10 cases since Nov. 30 for a cumulative total of 294 virus cases.

Cumberland County, according to the VDH, increased 12 cases this week for a cumulative total of 172. Prince Edward County rose 30 cases for a total of 907.

While most of the counties in the health district did not display sizable case increases in the last seven days, Nash said Lunenburg County is experiencing a slight increase in COVID-19 cases since the middle of November, with an average of two cases per day.

“It looks like we’re having a little post-Thanksgiving hump in Lunenburg,” he said.

On Monday, Lunenburg had risen 13 cases in one week for a cumulative total of 184 coronavirus cases.

Buckingham County actually saw a tremendous virus surge this week according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), jumping 118 cases from Monday, Nov. 30, to Monday, Dec. 7, bringing the county’s cumulative number of coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic to over 1,000. As of Dec. 7, Buckingham’s total number of cases sat at 1,011.

But when asked about the dramatic surge on Monday, Nash said he had to look all the way back to data collected Dec. 3 to find records of coronavirus cases in Buckingham that weren’t due to the ongoing prison outbreak.

On Monday, the Virginia Department of Corrections was reporting 117 active offender coronavirus cases and three active staff cases at Buckingham Correctional Center (BKCC).

Nash said the county saw just 10 virus cases between Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 that weren’t connected to the prison.

On Sunday, Dec. 6, Virginia saw its latest record high in single-day reported coronavirus cases. According to the VDH, the commonwealth was hit with 3,880 cases Sunday.

On Monday, Nash said he expects numbers may crest soon.

“I think in response to what we are not seeing that we expected to see after Thanksgiving, I think this is probably going to crest and then hopefully start going back down,” he said. “It could crest and then stay the same and then level, which in itself would be pretty devastating news for the health care systems, because we’re all pretty much taxed to the limit right now. Close.”

Nash also addressed vaccination efforts Monday, remarking that the Pfizer vaccine is expected to receive emergency use authorization this week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nash said he expects authorization will likely occur between Friday, Dec. 11, and Monday, Dec. 14.

“At that point, we already have mapped out exactly what hospitals and what pharmacies are going to get how much vaccine from that shipment. We’re going to distribute over 70,000 doses next week, mainly to large medical centers and the pharmacies,” he said of the commonwealth.

Nash said large medical centers in Virginia will have the responsibility of  starting to immunize the state’s health care workers, and pharmacies are going to be tasked with distributing and administering the vaccine to long term care facilities.

“After that, I expect the other Moderna vaccine to gain emergency use authorization probably by the 18th at the latest, and we expect very robust shipments of vast numbers of vaccines starting on the 21st and 28th of December to get to the governor’s projected numbers of 480,000 doses, so we’re going to have to get probably 200,000 doses shipped out the week of the 21st and also the week of the 28th.”