Cases soar on Christmas Eve

Published 8:01 am Thursday, December 30, 2021

Record-breaking coronavirus case numbers and thousands of canceled flights created holiday turmoil over the weekend as the health district and country continue to face the effects of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

The commonwealth saw some dramatic jumps in its coronavirus cases this week, reminding many of the grim numbers which plagued the state last winter.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in the Piedmont Health District alone, coronavirus cases have more than tripled since this time last month, jumping from 70 cases across the week of Nov. 21-27 to 229 cases reported the week of Dec. 19-25. Every county in the health district has been on an upward trend in cases for 20 days or more.

From the seven-day period of Dec. 20 through Dec. 27, according to the VDH, Lunenburg County reported 32 new cases of the virus.

Charlotte County reported 38 cases of the virus this week and one new COVID-related death.

Prince Edward County saw 40 new coronavirus cases this week. Buckingham was up by 33 cases and Cumberland jumped 20 cases.

Unfortunately, Virginia saw what appeared to be record-breaking virus numbers surrounding the Christmas holiday.

On Monday, Dec. 27, the state reported 4,472 new coronavirus cases; a dramatic increase compared to 2,991 cases reported seven days earlier.

But perhaps the most shocking statistic came from Christmas Eve, when the commonwealth reported a staggering 8,756 new cases in one day. A spike like this hasn’t been observed since last winter’s devastating COVID surge when a high of 9,914 cases was reported on Jan. 15.

The state’s seven-day moving average (the average number of cases reported across a seven-day period) was reported to be 6,307 on Dec. 27 compared to 3,286 one week prior. This number narrowly surpasses Virginia’s previous record for a seven-day moving average of 6,161 cases reported Jan. 19.

While the number of virus cases reported across the last week was daunting, Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond says those numbers could be bigger than they seem.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the omicron variant now accounts for approximately 75.8% of COVID-19 cases in the region.

“Cases have been rapidly increasing due to the ease with which the omicron variant spreads,” Almond said Monday. “Testing over the holidays is always limited, so the true spread of COVID-19 in the community is likely much higher than our already increased case numbers show. But the most concerning fact is that hospitalizations continue to rise as well, threatening our already strained health care systems. By far, the vast majority of those people who require hospitalization are unvaccinated.”

With cases surging in cities across the country, omicron’s effects were felt far and wide this holiday. Thousands of flights were delayed or canceled as airline staff called out sick due to COVID.

According to flight-tracking company FlightAware, approximately 1,700 flights were canceled across the U.S. over the Christmas weekend.

On Monday, Almond said for those who have been vaccinated and boosted, recent infections with COVID seem to be mostly mild and self-limited.

“We all have a choice to make about what our experience will be when we get infected — and many of us, whether vaccinated or not, will now have a high likelihood of becoming infected,” Almond continued. “Let’s choose to support our health care workers; let’s choose to keep our hospital beds freely available to those who need them; let’s choose to protect those who cannot get vaccinated or have weakened immune systems. Let’s choose to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Some good news did come this week in the form of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization of two oral antiviral treatments of COVID-19 in individuals at high risk of hospitalization or death.

On Wednesday, Dec. 22, the FDA provided emergency use authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s Pazlovid for the treatment of mild-to moderate coronavirus disease in adults and some pediatric patients over the age of 12. The following day, an EUA was also issued for Merck’s molnupiravir for the treatment of coronavirus disease in adults. Both medications are available via prescription for individuals who meet the criteria for treatment.

“Medical science has moved quickly to develop tools to help in the fight,” Almond noted. “… However, some of those tools, such as the monoclonal antibodies are now being re-evaluated with the new variant as effectiveness changes. COVID-19 is a tricky virus that has evolved to evade our efforts to tame it. But our own immune system is also ingenious. Vaccines — which boost our immune system’s natural strengths — continue to be the most effective tool that we have in this fight.

The Piedmont Health District continues to slowly increase its number of vaccinated individuals.

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

Lunenburg: population fully vaccinated: 50.6%, population with booster shot: 14.8%

Charlotte: population fully vaccinated: 50.4%, population with booster shot: 17.2%

Prince Edward: population fully vaccinated: 43.5%, population with booster shot: 16.8%

Buckingham: population fully vaccinated: 51.1%, population with booster shot: 17.5%

Cumberland: population fully vaccinated: 47%, population with booster shot: 15.4%

VACCINATION CLINICS:

• Thursday, Dec. 30 at the Farmer’s Market in Farmville from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

• Wednesday, Jan. 12 at the Journey Community Center in Jetersville from 1:30-5:30 p.m.

• Thursday, Jan. 14 at the Cumberland Community Cares/Delma’s Pantry from 9 a.m. – noon.

FREE PCR TESTING:

The PEFYA location from 1 – 4 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 3

Tuesday, Jan. 18

Monday, Jan. 31

Monday, Feb. 14

The Buckingham Community Center location from noon – 3 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 10

Monday, Jan. 24

Monday, Feb. 7

Tuesday, Feb. 22