COVID cases on the rise

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

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New data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) suggests a rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide. However, health officials say the current numbers do not constitute an outbreak of the same magnitude as in 2020.

“Right now, due to the widespread immunity our bodies have developed from vaccination and exposure, Covid-19 is no longer the threat it was in 2020,” said Dr. Maria Almond, Piedmont Health District Director. “However, it still is a virus capable of spreading quickly in communities whenever we come together, such as in travel, holidays or when students return to school.”

Although not the threat it was in 2020, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in Virginia has experienced a significant increase over the past month, more than doubling in comparison.

According to data from the VDH, it is currently up approximately 32% from last week.

“Virginia is currently seeing an uptick in COVID-19 trends, such as hospital admissions, hospital beds in use, diagnosed COVID-19 in our Emergency Departments and concentrations in wastewater,” said Logan Anderson, a VDH spokesperson.

According to the VDH, 2.17 percent of emergency room visits were diagnosed for COVID-19 in the last week of August. That’s 27.6 percent higher than the previous week.

Those numbers equate to over 50 percent of hospital admissions for the same week.

VDH data for Charlotte County indicates there were 72 new hospital admissions confirmed last week, making that a 50 percent increase from the week prior.

Dr. Almond said case-level data is not currently as reliable in fully understanding the experience of the community due to the widespread use of at-home tests, which still need to be officially reported. As well, many people simply may not test if they are only experiencing mild illness such as a runny nose or slight cough.

Nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 12,000 individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 during the week ending Aug. 12, indicating an approximately 22% surge compared to the previous week.

While the number of case are on the rise, health officials are working to release a booster vaccine to target XBB.1.5, which was responsible for less than 5% of new coronavirus infections in recent weeks.

Officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration anticipate the rollout of the shots to commence in mid-September.

Even with the new booster set to be released this month, most Americans have some sort of protection against COVID-19.

According to the Biden administration, approximately 97% of Americans aged 16 and above have acquired COVID-19 immunity through vaccination, previous infection, or a combination of both.

The CDC says the Moderna, Pfizer, and Novavax shots require authorization from the FDA. Following that, the CDC’s committee of vaccine experts will meet to determine the eligibility criteria for receiving the booster. “Thankfully for COVID-19, we have a medication too — Paxlovid — that can decrease the likelihood of severe effects when taken in a timely manner.

Dr. Almond said even though COVID-19 may not be as severe as in past years, there are still those in our community who are more vulnerable to any illness and who may need to take increased precautions whenever a virus, such as influenza or COVID-19, is circulating.