COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing

Published 8:05 am Thursday, January 13, 2022

Coronavirus cases are exploding across the commonwealth this week as Virginia grapples with record breaking case numbers which dwarf any previous surge.

Data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) shows virus cases have more than quadrupled in the Piedmont Health District since just before the holidays, soaring from 213 district-wide cases the week of Dec. 12 – Dec. 18, 2021 to 950 cases the week of Jan. 1 – Jan. 8.

From the period of Monday, Jan. 3, to Monday, Jan. 10, Lunenburg County reported 107 new cases of the virus.

Prince Edward saw a staggering 245 new coronavirus cases. Buckingham County rose by 108 cases, Cumberland jumped by 65 cases, and Charlotte County reported 179 new COVID-19 cases over the last week.

This year’s holiday surge in COVID-19 cases has produced record-breaking numbers. According to VDH, Virginia reported a total of 15,463 new coronavirus cases on Monday, Jan. 10, up dramatically from the 7,974 cases reported the previous Monday.

But the state’s most shocking figures so far came Saturday, Jan. 8, when the commonwealth reported its largest daily increase in cases ever recorded at 26,175. The figure is more than double the former record of 9,914 daily cases reported during last winter’s surge on Jan. 17, 2021.

Unsurprisingly, Monday’s seven-day moving average for COVID-19 cases in Virginia was also at an all-time high at 16,861, a tremendous jump from last week’s then-record of 13,266.

The highly transmissible omicron variant’s takeover of the U.S. has flooded countless communities and their respective health care systems with coronavirus patients.

On Sunday, Jan. 9, Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond warned that the local Centra Health’s hospital census had exceeded that of the Delta peak seen in late August and early September of 2021 and was approaching that of the most significant peak of the pandemic reached Jan. 13 of last year when 133 patients were hospitalized in Lynchburg facilities.

On Monday, Jan. 10, Centra reported a total of 141 COVID-19 hospitalizations between its Lynchburg, Bedford and Southside hospitals, with 19 of those patients in the ICU, 15 of which were actively being ventilated.

Eleven of Centra’s ICU patients on Monday were unvaccinated, while eight were vaccinated. Of Centra’s 141 total patients on Monday, 34 were vaccinated while the remaining 107 were unvaccinated.

Effective Jan. 5, Centra began limiting visitors in inpatient spaces to one visitor age 16 or older at a time per adult patient, though the visitor may interchange during the patient’s hospital stay. Clergy members and doulas are not included in this count.

“COVID-19 case numbers are continuing to skyrocket throughout the state, now followed by the subsequent rise in hospitalizations and eventually, unfortunately, a rise in deaths,” Almond said Monday. “Our community is now in the Omicron surge. Thankfully for most people — and generally for all those vaccinated and boosted — the severity of illness is mild; and hospitalizations are not following the same meteoric rise as cases.

“However, there is no doubt that our local health care system is feeling the significant strain of this surge … Health care systems are resilient organizations, often built to be able to absorb short-term crises, but the chronicity of COVID is wearing on our health care workers and the system as a whole. We must, as a community, do all we can to protect our workers.

“This means that we must all take more caution in our daily choices and activities. We do not need to halt our lives, but we must proceed responsibly and cautiously. Drive safely, be aware of fall risks, and as always, continue your careful layered mitigation practices to reduce all respiratory infections: wear your mask when in public areas, wash your hands, be selective about your activities over the next month and avoid unnecessary in-person gatherings. For COVID protection, most importantly, ensure that you are vaccinated and boosted.”

COVID-related news was flying left and right over the last two weeks, including new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that those who test positive for COVID-19 need only isolate themselves for five days as long as symptoms begin to resolve after this period, followed by five days of masking when around others.

The CDC now also recommends those who may have been exposed to a COVID-positive individual simply wear a mask around others for 10 days and test on day five, if possible.

Monday, Jan. 3, Almond noted it is likely that all public school systems in the area will maintain prior CDC guidance for a 10-day isolation period for positive tests and a 10-day quarantine period for those potentially exposed to the virus, at least until further K-12-specific guidance is released.

Almond said implementation of the CDC’s shortened five-day isolation with strict masking on days 6-10 and shortened quarantining is nearly impossible for most schools, particularly at meal times.

Wednesday, Jan. 5, VDH immediately adopted other new guidelines from the CDC regarding primary series and booster doses for the COVID-19 vaccine.

CDC guidelines now allow for any COVID-19 vaccine booster to be administered at an interval of five months as opposed to six months after completion of the Pfizer primary series. Any COVID-19 vaccine booster remains recommended for six months after a Moderna series or two months after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Per CDC guidelines, children 12-17 are now recommended to receive a Pfizer booster shot five months after their primary series of a vaccine, and children ages 5-11 who are immunocompromised are now recommended to receive a third Pfizer dose as part of their primary series 28 days after the second dose.

On Monday, Almond emphasized vaccination with a boost is the number one way to ensure residents are able to live their lives with the fewest disruptions.

“You will stay healthier; you will not need to quarantine if exposed. You will be able to continue your work that adds to the life of this community,” she noted.

“If you are experiencing any symptoms, even mild ones such as a runny nose, scratchy throat or cough, please isolate until you are able to test or five days has passed since the start of your symptoms. Then continue to be diligent about mask-wearing when around others for the next five days. Testing is important. However, if your symptoms are mild, there is no need to seek testing at the emergency room. Please ask your local healthcare provider or health department for testing options; or inquire at urgent care centers or with local pharmacies.”

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

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

Lunenburg: population fully vaccinated: 51%, population with booster shot: 17.4%

Prince Edward: population fully vaccinated: 43.8%, population with booster shot: 19%

Buckingham: population fully vaccinated: 51.5%, population with booster shot: 19.7%

Cumberland: population fully vaccinated: 47.3%, population with booster shot: 17.2%

Charlotte: population fully vaccinated: 50.9%, population with booster shot: 19.4%

Upcoming vaccination clinics include:

• Thursday, Jan. 13 from 9 a.m. – noon at Wayland Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center located at 730 Lunenburg County Road in Keysville.

• Thursday, Jan. 13 from 2 – 5 p.m. at Crewe Vol. Fire Department located at 603 W. Virginia Avenue in Crewe.

• Friday, Jan. 14 from 8:30 – 11 a.m. at Cumberland Community Cares Food Distribution Center located at 1550 Anderson Highway in Cumberland.