Delta variant has arrived

Published 7:37 pm Friday, July 30, 2021

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The Piedmont Health District is experiencing a new surge in COVID-19 cases as the delta variant arrives in the area.

From Monday, July 19, to Monday, July 26, most counties in the Piedmont Health District experienced large jumps in COVID-19 cases.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), from the week of July 19 to July 26, Charlotte and Lunenburg counties each saw five new cases of COVID-19 compared to eight and two cases, respectively, the week prior.

Prince Edward County saw 15 new cases of the virus, up from just three the previous week. Buckingham County jumped up to 14 new cases of the virus compared to no new cases the week before.

In Cumberland County, seven new virus cases were reported in the last week compared to one case the week prior.

The state also saw a massive increase in cases in the last week, including 505 daily reported cases July 26 compared to 275 cases one week prior. Virginia’s seven-day moving average of cases reached 671 on Monday, up significantly from 376 the previous week.

Acting Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Sulola Adekoya confirmed Monday the easily transmissible and highly virulent delta COVID-19 variant has been located in the health district. 

Adekoya said the delta variant has been detected at least four times in the Piedmont Health District, all of which were in instances of “breakthrough” cases, or cases in which fully vaccinated individuals tested positive for the virus. This is not due to vaccinated people being more likely to contract the virus but rather the method of testing. The health district tests breakthrough cases due to their irregularity, but unvaccinated individuals do not typically have genome sequencing performed on their test results unless the laboratory performs a random test to determine which variant the person has contracted.

Adekoya noted many of the area’s new cases are stemming from unvaccinated residents, but the area, as stated above, is witnessing instances in which vaccinated residents also contract the virus, often due to traveling or gathering in a place with low vaccination rates.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of the new cases are coming from those who are unvaccinated. Also, we’re seeing not many, but a few vaccinated people that have gone to areas where they have a low vaccination rate and have come back positive.” Cases, Adekoya noted, are headed in the wrong direction.

Centra Southside Community Hospital CEO Tom Angelo noted Monday, July 26, the hospital was reopening its COVID-19 unit that day and is prepared to expand rapidly if needed. Southside’s COVID unit was closed March 25 due to little or no volume of coronavirus patients.

On Monday, the hospital did not have any residents currently admitted to its COVID unit.

Most counties in the health district went up less than half a percentage point this week for the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated.

The percentage of fully vaccinated residents in each county are as follows:

Charlotte – 38.9%

Lunenburg – 40%

Prince Edward – 34.8%

Buckingham – 39.6%

Cumberland – 37.9%

Adekoya said while the county’s increasing vaccination numbers are encouraging, the area still lags behind compared to the rest of the state’s vaccination rates.

Adekoya stressed vaccination against the COVID-19 virus continues to be available at pharmacy and clinic sites throughout the health district.

While it is apparent many have relaxed their feelings behind the pandemic, she urged individuals to continue to take the virus seriously and remember mitigation efforts such as washing hands and masking up when in a poorly ventilated or overcrowded area. Residents should also make an effort to research the vaccination rate of locations they travel to.

“The delta variant is in the district and is easily transmittable, more virulent,” Adekoya warned. “So please, please, please take it very seriously.”