Delta variant poses threat to unvaccinated

Published 8:35 pm Thursday, July 22, 2021

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There are still no confirmed cases of the Delta variant in the Piedmont Health District, but COVID-19 cases are on the rise locally and across the state.

After weeks on the downtrend, coronavirus cases began to trend upwards at the beginning of the month, nationally and locally.

From Monday, July 12, to Monday, July 19, Lunenburg County saw two new cases of COVID-19. Prince Edward County saw three new cases of the virus, Buckingham County saw no new cases, and Cumberland County saw one new case. Charlotte County had eight new cases of COVID-19 in the last week.

The state has seen large jumps in its number of cases in the last week. On July 19, the commonwealth’s COVID-19 cases, per the Virginia Department of Health, was 275, up from last week’s figure of 183.

The seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases in Virginia is also on the rise from 237 last week to 376 this week.

Acting Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Sulola Adekoya said Monday, July 19, this increase in case numbers could likely be attributed to the Fourth of July holiday, adding officials typically see a temporary uptick in cases after holidays and other travel-heavy events.

Adekoya said the relaxing of social distancing and masking requirements may also play a role in the increase in cases.

While most of the area’s COVID-19 cases occur in individuals who are unvaccinated, Adekoya said Monday the health district does see instances in which vaccinated residents contract COVID-19. She added cases among vaccinated citizens are typically seen most often in instances in which individuals travel to an area with low vaccination rates, and even then, vaccinated residents tend to show very mild symptoms. So far, no vaccinated residents have needed to be hospitalized as a result of contracting the virus.

Although the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus has not yet been spotted in the Piedmont Health District, 59 cases have been identified in the Central region of the commonwealth.

Adekoya emphasized residents, especially unvaccinated individuals, have a much higher chance of contracting the Delta variant. Currently, all COVID-19 vaccines offer protection against this new variant.

Adekoya warned individuals who venture to a place with a low vaccination rate are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, adding individuals should make efforts to protect their health by still masking up in such areas and knowing the infection rate of places they plan to travel to.

And while Virginia’s COVID-19 infection rate is still low compared to other states, officials hope to keep those figures from trending any further upward by continuing to encourage vaccination.

Vaccination rates in the Piedmont Health District were up in most cases by more than a percentage point this week compared to the week prior, a statistic Adekoya said officials find encouraging.

The percentage of fully vaccinated residents as of July 19 for each county are as follows:

Lunenburg – 39.6%

Prince Edward – 34.5%

Buckingham – 39.3%

Cumberland – 37.5%

Charlotte – 38.6%

Adekoya noted pharmacies and vaccination clinics in the health district continue to offer opportunities to get vaccinated mornings, evenings and weekend hours.