More than 20% of Virginians tested for the coronavirus are receiving positive results by July 4 weekend, marking the highest positivity rate in the state since February.
The true percentage is likely higher among people using rapid home tests and not reporting results to health officials – a trend seen nationwide.
Friday’s report from the Virginia Department of Health shows nearly 3,400 more COVID infections, bringing the seven-day average of cases to more than 2,800 after nearly a month of decline.
Although this is lower than the brief rise in infections in May and June which peaked at more than 3,300 cases per day, Friday’s figures are 16 times higher than at the same time last year, when the State averaged 176 daily cases.
Over the weekend of July 4, 2021, the delta variant had recently begun to tighten its grip in the least vaccinated states before largely waning in late September. Omicron, which fueled an aggressive push that saw Virginia report more than 18,000 new cases a day, has remained the engine of COVID’s ebbs and flows for nearly six months.
People also read…
And over the past three months, most COVID outbreaks in Virginia have been concentrated in K-12 schools.
According to VDH data, the least vaccinated population is 5-11 year olds, a group that only became eligible to receive a COVID vaccine in late October.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration said the agency recommends vaccine makers develop a vaccine specifically to fend off omicron.
On the same day, the Transportation Security Administration recorded 2.4 million travelers passing through TSA checkpoints. This is the highest figure documented in the past three years and exceeds pre-pandemic figures.
“As we enter fall and winter, it is critical that we have safe and effective vaccine boosters that can provide protection against circulating and emerging variants to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19. “wrote Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which oversees vaccine safety and effectiveness for the agency.
This does not mean that the FDA advises manufacturers to modify the original formula, but rather to provide stronger protection targeting the circulating omicron subvariants which, when combined, have become the main drivers of new cases of coronavirus.
Omicron subvariants accounted for 47% of all infections statewide. The VDH reported the first case of omicron in Virginia in early December.
Hospitalizations have remained largely flat at an average of 558 over the past week, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, although those numbers are higher than July 1 of last year, when 179 people were hospitalized a given day.
Deaths are a lagging indicator of the severity of an outbreak, and the VDH site is currently showing a spike in deaths due to a two-week blackout period when death certificates were not processed.
That’s why on Friday, 32 new deaths were reported, bringing the average to 16 deaths per day, or roughly one person dying from COVID every 90 minutes.
Richmond and Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties are facing high levels of community transmission in addition to 24 other cities and towns in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises residents of these localities to wear masks in public and indoor places, regardless of their vaccination status, and to get tested if they have symptoms.
An additional 75 localities are at medium levels of community transmission, meaning 77% of the state is in an area of medium to high COVID spread.
But in a weekly update from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute, which has conducted infectious disease modeling for more than 20 years, researchers found that no health district is seeing a sharp rise in cases.
Most, 23 out of 35, are in decline. Five have plateaued and seven are experiencing slow growth. If the state continues on its current streak, researchers predict “a slow but steady decline in cases,” with the state reaching less than 2,000 cases per day by early August.
The best and most optimistic scenario includes increased home testing, masking and isolation when sick and assumes a 25% reduction in transmission.
“This scenario demonstrates the importance of Virginians continuing to practice appropriate prevention and following the CDC’s community-level prevention guidelines in their area.”
This projection shows cases dropping back down to less than 1,000 daily cases by mid-September. It hadn’t happened since April.