Cases up in Piedmont as omicron hits VA

Published 6:08 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2021

COVID-19 cases are trending upward in several different Piedmont Health District counties as the omicron variant is spotted in Virginia; meanwhile, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized Pfizer booster shots for 16- and 17-year olds.

It was an eventful week in coronavirus news, starting with increased cases in local counties and hospitals.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), cases are currently trending upward in Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland and Charlotte counties.

VDH data shows from the period of Monday, Dec. 6, to Monday, Dec. 13, Lunenburg County reported 12 new COVID-19 cases. Prince Edward saw 35 new cases of the virus. Buckingham reported 29 new COVID-19 cases, Cumberland was up by 10 cases and Charlotte by 35. Both Lunenburg and Prince Edward counties reported one new COVID-related death.

The state reported a total of 1,668 COVID cases Monday, Dec. 13, just eight cases lower than the 1,676 cases reported the previous Monday. Virginia’s seven-day moving average jumped from 2,264 to 2,520 as of Dec. 13.

The local hospital system continues to see weekly increases in its COVID patient count. On Monday, Centra Health was reporting a total of 63 virus patients between Lynchburg General Hospital and Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville. Of those 63 patients, 10 were in the ICU, five of which were actively being vented. Eight of Centra’s 63 patients were fully vaccinated as of Monday, while 55 were unvaccinated.

State and local case increases come just as the new omicron variant is spotted in Virginia.

VDH announced the first confirmed case of omicron in the commonwealth on Thursday, noting the variant was identified in a sample from an adult resident of the Northwest Region of Virginia with no history of international travel. The patient did have a history of domestic travel.

The Omicron variant, according to VDH, was first identified in Botswana and South Africa in November and may spread more easily than other variants, including delta. Officials noted at this time, there is no evidence that infection with the omicron variant causes more severe disease, but there is evidence that persons who have previously had COVID-19 might be at greater risk for reinfection with omicron.

Omicron’s arrival in Virginia wasn’t the only news to come out of Thursday, Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond highlighted.

On Dec. 9, according to Almond, the FDA expanded its authorization, followed by a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that Pfizer COVID-19 boosters be offered to those in the 16- and 17-year-old age group. Now, anyone age 16 or older can receive a booster shot once ready.

Almond emphasized on Monday the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted in order to protect the community.

“With the highly transmissible delta variant continuing to surge and the unknown challenges of the omicron variant, we have to act now to bolster our communities,” she said. “50.02% of the population in the Piedmont district is now fully vaccinated. This is an accomplishment, but we are not yet done. COVID-19 is a persistent virus, and we have to match its determination. Our best offense and defense is vaccination.

“We will get to a point where this virus becomes more manageable, where our health care systems are no longer threatened, but the fastest way to taming the pandemic requires each of us to roll up a sleeve and get vaccinated.”

Vaccination rates in each county of the health district, as of Monday, were as follows:

Lunenburg: population fully vaccinated: 50.2%, population with booster shot: 11.8%

Prince Edward: population fully vaccinated: 43.1%, population with booster shot: 14.2%

Buckingham: population fully vaccinated: 50.6%, population with booster shot: 14.2%

Cumberland: population fully vaccinated: 46.6%, population with booster shot: 12.3%

Charlotte: population fully vaccinated: 49.7%, population with booster shot: 14.4%

Upcoming vaccination clinics listed below are open to the public. Walk-ins welcome.

All vaccinations will be available, whether initial series or boosters, for free, no insurance required.

Wednesday, Dec. 15 at Journey Community Center in Jetersville (Amelia) 2 – 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 15 at Municipal Building in Drakes Branch (Charlotte) 2 – 5:30 p.m. Walk-in only. Vaccines provided by Charlotte Drug.

Friday, Dec. 17 at Cardinal Homes in Wylliesburg (Charlotte) noon – 3:30 p.m. Public event. Walk-in only. Vaccines provided by Charlotte Drug.

TESTING:

Monday, Dec. 20, Free PCR testing at Prince Edward Farmville Youth Association in Farmville from 1 – 4 p.m.

Libraries offering free, rapid antigen tests (need internet access):

Central Virginia Regional Libraries in Prince Edward and Buckingham counties

James L. Hamner Public Library in Amelia Court House