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More young, healthy people getting COVID

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb throughout Virginia and the Piedmont Health District as officials see an increase in cases among young, healthy individuals.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), from Monday, Aug. 2, to Monday, Aug. 9, Lunenburg County saw 11 new cases of the coronavirus. Buckingham County was up 15 cases in one week, Cumberland and Charlotte counties had each risen four cases and Prince Edward was up 12 cases.

On Monday, Aug. 9, Virginia reported a statewide total of 1,298 new COVID-19 cases in one day, up from last Monday’s 1,165 cases. The state’s seven-day moving average for daily cases was listed as 1,626, a significant increase from the previous week’s number of 1,108.

With the highly transmissible delta variant driving up cases across the nation, acting Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Sulola Adekoya noted Monday, Aug. 9, that the health district is in the process of working to ensure the public is aware of the necessary mitigation strategies to combat any further spread, the most important being to mask up.

Adekoya highlighted that while no one wants to wear a mask, it’s important residents mask up when indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, to protect themselves against COVID-19 during this time in which the majority of the health district is experiencing a high transmission rate.

She added it is also important for schoolchildren and teachers to maintain masking procedures as they head back to school, adding mitigation strategies such as masking up and social distancing will help kids stay in the classroom where they can learn best.

Adekoya said the risk of children contracting COVID-19 and bringing it home to family members is still a big concern, adding children can have COVID-19 and yet sometimes show no symptoms.

She emphasized new data shows vaccinated individuals can be asymptomatic yet still transmit the virus.

“Masking really reduces the transition from person to person,” she said. “Your mask protects me. My mask protects you.”

As before, Adekoya noted while the delta variant of the virus is much more transmissible than previous variants, vaccinated residents are much less likely to show symptoms or require hospitalization.

On Friday, Aug. 6, Centra officials distributed a press release citing both Centra Lynchburg General Hospital and the Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville have seen an overall increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks, with cases at Lynchburg General having more than doubled in one week.

Officials warned the hospital system has seen a major shift in inpatient demographics over the last month, with almost 50% of COVID-19 patients now younger than 59 years old, a significant change from last year’s demographics.

Centra officials noted in addition to being younger, current patients also tend not to have any pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension.

“While we previously saw less intense illness in young, healthy people, our current patients are more likely to require intensive care or a ventilator during their hospital stay,” the release stated. “The majority of hospitalized COVID patients are not vaccinated.”

On Monday, Aug. 9, there were 32 COVID patients at Lynchburg Genral and two patients at Southside.

“We know that 99.5% of the deaths now occur in those who are not vaccinated,” Adekoya said Monday, adding the health district has also witnessed an increase in COVID cases among young people.

Adekoya said the delta variant’s presence in the health district has appeared to drive up the demand for the vaccine in the area.

As of Monday, Aug. 9, the percentage of fully vaccinated people in each county was as follows:

Lunenburg – 40.9%

Prince Edward – 35.3%

Buckingham – 40.6%

Cumberland – 38.4%

Charlotte – 39.8%

Prince Edward County continues to display some of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.

Adekoya emphasized Monday that mask recommendations are not intended to take away freedom but to get ahead of COVID-19 as it does what viruses love to do — mutate — in order to protect the public.

“Our intention is not to take everybody’s freedom. The opposite is quite true.”

As always, Adekoya reminded citizens on Monday that the vaccine is available at almost any pharmacy in the area as well as through regular vaccine clinics. She advised those seeking further information regarding the virus and vaccines to obtain their information from credible resources such as VDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).