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COVID cases have doubled across the state

COVID-19 numbers in the commonwealth have doubled in one week as counties in the Piedmont Health District continue to see a new surge fueled by the delta variant.

Monday, Aug. 2, the state’s number of daily COVID-19 cases sat at 1,165 — more than double the previous Monday’s figure of 505 cases.

The state’s seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases has also nearly doubled in the last week, from 671 cases Monday, July 26, to 1,108 cases Aug. 2.

Locally, cases are continuing to rise fast. According to the VDH, from July 26 to Aug. 2 Lunenburg County saw eight new cases of the virus. Prince Edward County was up 15 coronavirus cases from the week prior. Buckingham jumped 24 cases, Cumberland County saw seven new cases of the virus, and Charlotte County was up nine cases.

Health officials have attributed these rapid infection rates across the state to the new, highly virulent delta variant of the virus. As of Friday, July 30, at least two cases of the delta variant had been spotted in the Piedmont Health District.

On Monday, acting Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Sulola Adekoya emphasized that because of manpower the majority of genome sequencing for COVID variants done in the health district is performed on testing samples from “breakthrough” cases of the virus in which a fully vaccinated individual contracted COVID.

Variant testing is not typically performed on most COVID tests unless through random sampling, so the number of delta variant cases spotted in the health district does not represent the variant’s prevalence in the area.

“We know that the numbers are going up,” Adekoya said.

Adekoya acknowledged Monday the area’s COVID-19 numbers are going in the opposite direction as officials wanted to see. As the health department pushes for more testing, vaccination and mitigation efforts against the virus, they are also gearing up to meet an anticipated need of more contact tracing and education efforts as numbers rise.

Adekoya said the department is still encouraging all members of the public who can get vaccinated to do so.

“That’s the key,” she said. “Our way out of this pandemic is vaccination.”

The vaccination rate among Piedmont Health District residents continues to slowly climb, although local numbers still lag behind other areas in the commonwealth.

As of Monday, Aug. 2, the percentage of fully vaccinated residents in each county are as follows:

Lunenburg – 40.3%

Prince Edward – 35%

Buckingham – 40%

Cumberland – 38.2%

Charlotte – 39.3%

Adekoya highlighted Monday that while a small number of area residents have tested positive for the virus despite being fully vaccinated, it is important to remember that the vaccine not only reduces one’s chances of getting COVID-19 but also the severity of the illness and the potential for hospitalization or even death.

“Studies have shown (that for) people who are fully vaccinated, the vaccine remains powerfully effective against severe illnesses and death as compared to those who are unvaccinated.”

She noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes vaccinated people have the ability to potentially transfer the delta variant of COVID-19 to their peers, regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms. In fact, individuals who develop the delta variant can infect five to seven more people than someone infected with another variant of COVID-19.

“If you are unvaccinated, I would encourage you, first of all, to get vaccinated. If you’re around vaccinated people and you’re unvaccinated, that’s not a security blanket anymore.”

With numbers on the rise, Adkeoya said it’s important to follow CDC and VDH recommendations regarding COVID mitigation, including masking up when in crowded, poorly ventilated areas regardless of one’s vaccination status.

She added the situation is fluid and recommendations may change depending on developing health data.

“It’s hard. Everybody is very tired of wearing masks, but we do know we need to take this seriously,” she said. “The deaths are occurring in unvaccinated people, and the hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people, so the vaccine protects you.”

While we’re still a ways to go, Adekoya said Monday she hopes the area will one day be able to vaccinate 70% of its eligible residents.

The vaccine is readily available at pharmacies and clinics across the area, but the health department also has two large vaccine clinic events planned in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Aug. 10, the health department will hold a vaccine clinic at Nottoway High School located at 5267 Old Nottoway Road. From 1 to 5 p.m. residents can come out to obtain a Johnson and Johnson or Pfizer vaccine.

On Friday, Aug. 13, a vaccine clinic will be held in Amelia County at 16330 Dunn Street at the War Memorial building. Residents can go to the event from 1 to 5 p.m. to get the Johnson and Johnson or Pfizer vaccine.

Adekoya likened getting the vaccine to being prepared to help fight in a battle against the enemy — COVID-19.

“The fact that you’re vaccinated, you’re ready to stand the war.”