The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth are on the rise again, in a reversal of trends seen earlier in the summer according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
On June 15, COVID-19 cases fell to a record low, a 7-Day moving average of 134, and people were hopeful we were winning the fight against COVID-19. However, in July, COVID-19 numbers began trending upwards again.
The prevalence of the new more potent Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in Virginia, is a major factor. The state has also opened up more as masking is no longer required in most places (although the Governor is recommending people wear masks.) Vaccinations rates are also in decline, as a significant percentage of the population do not want to be vaccination - at least at this juncture.
As of August 5, the number of new COVID-19 recorded cases reached a level the state had not seen since April 2021 with a 7-Day moving average of 1,373 and 1,760 reported cases added to the dashboard on that date. The numbers have been steadily increasing throughout the week.
Deaths have been increasing at an alarming rate. The VDH shows that the week of July 29 deaths averaged 4.6 per day, a 106% increase from the previous week. Hospitalizations averaged 431 per day, a 37% increase from the week before.
In Northern Virginia, COVID-19 new cases are also on the rise with 231 reported on Aug. 3 in comparison to 14 on June 15. In contrast, the region’s highest reporting day ever was on Jan. 17 when new regional cases reached 3,678. Northern Virginia increasing rates are still the lowest in the state.
According to UVA, COVID-19 cases have “ceased their decline.” Most health districts, including Prince William, have returned to “slow growth.” And 10 out of 35 health districts are experiencing surges.
According to the UVA Biocomplexity Institute’s COVID-19 Modeling July 30 “Weekly Update” published by the VDH, the dominant Delta variant “continues to grow,” “creating increased risk for unvaccinated individuals.” This is especially true in communities with low vaccination rates.
UVA’s projection model predicts that if the virus continues to progress at this rate, cases this year could exceed last January’s peak; however if that occurs, outcomes could be worse due to a more potent variant.
According to the UVA Biocomplexity Institute, “evidence is building that the Delta variant causes more severe disease,” in addition to being more easily transmitted from person to person.
Combatting COVID-19 through vaccinations is proving problematic for the Commonwealth as it is around the country. First dose vaccines have greatly decreased, with only a slight increase towards the end of July.
“Vaccines are our best defense against the Delta variant, drastically reducing the risk of infection and severe disease,” said UVA.
Concerning though “breakthrough” cases are, vaccine companies only claim vaccines to be between 90-95% effective against Coronavirus. Virginia data shows fully vaccinated people make up less than 1% of all the COVID-19 cases they have recorded.
In total, 145 Virginians who were fully vaccinated had been hospitalized for complications from the virus, juxtaposed to 7,230 unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. And while 2,471 not fully vaccinated people have died from COVID-19 or its complications, only 42 fully vaccinated people have died.
The data stems back to before vaccinations were available. However, as of July 30, 4.6 million Virginians have been vaccinated.
Still concerning though is that some fully-vaccinated people are dying. One fully-vaccinated Virginian died in the last week of July, compared to 22 not fully vaccinated people. That’s 4.5%.
Deaths from COVID-19 are more likely in older patients, the virus itself affects young people. More 20-29 year olds have tested positive for Coronavirus than any other age demographic.
And it is important for unvaccinated people to know that the vaccinated cannot protect them. Virginia has not yet reached herd immunity levels said UVA, “and with many Virginians returning to normal, the virus has room to run.” The institute says that if vaccination rates pick up, “over 60,000 cases could be avoided.”
Virginia has had 61.2 new confirmed cases per week per 100,000 residents. Neighboring states Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina have much higher rates of new infection whereas West Virginia, D.C. and Maryland have lower rates of infection.
When Prince William County Schools open, everyone must wear face masks indoors when in contact with students or unvaccinated people. However, with in-person schooling 5-days a week, less social will be possible.
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