By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Dec. 13 — The post-Thanksgiving wave of new COVID-19 cases is now transitioning right into the expected winter uptick that began late last fall. Case counts have been rising in recent weeks across the region and the state. New cases being reported in Page County have reached its highest level since early October, and Page’s positivity rate has once again climbed back to being the highest in the health district — and, subsequently, the highest positivity rate reported in the county since the pandemic began.
The Virginia Department of Health has reported 117 new cases of COVID-19 in Page County since Dec. 6, including 44 cases over the weekend. A total of 75 cases were reported the previous week, and only 56 the week prior to that. At its peak during the Delta-variant wave of the pandemic (around the third week of September), Page County reported 174 cases of the coronavirus in a single week.
Last Thursday, VDH reported that the Omicron variant has now come to Virginia — and it was first identified in the Northwest region of the state.
“…the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that the first confirmed case of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of the Northwest Region of Virginia who had no history of international travel, but did have a history of domestic travel, during the exposure period. The Omicron variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021, and may spread more easily than other variants, including Delta,” according to the Dec. 9 press release. “At this time, there is no evidence that infection with this 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. To date, the Omicron variant has been identified in 21 other U.S. states or jurisdictions.“
Viruses are constantly changing, according to the press release, and VDH expects to see new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerge as the disease spreads. As public health officials closely monitor the emergence of these variants, it is critical that all Virginians comply with mitigation measures.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before we would record our first Omicron infection in the Commonwealth,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “This drives home the challenge the COVID-19 virus presents to the world as the virus changes and mutates over time. Scientists are hard at work studying the newly identified variant to understand how easily it spreads and how sick it makes people. Right now, the highly transmissible Delta variant is causing almost all cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. We have very effective vaccines that can interrupt the chain of transmission and reduce the odds that unpredictable mutations like the Delta and Omicron variants will emerge. Do your part. Get vaccinated if you are eligible. Get your booster shot if you’re eligible. Vaccination is how Virginia, the U.S. and the world will put this pandemic behind us.”
Page County’s positivity rate has more than doubled in the last seven days to 23.5 percent (as of Monday), after being reported at 11.6 percent a week ago. The county also saw four hospitalizations related to the virus and one COVID-related death over the past week. VDH reported Page County’s 90th pandemic death Monday morning.
Page County Public Schools has reported 292 cases of COVID-19 within its buildings since opening on Aug. 23, (27 cases reported since last Monday) — 28 cases are still active (as of Dec. 13) with 18 cases among students and 10 among staff. Locals schools will let out for the two-week Christmas break this Friday, Dec. 17. Several Christmas concerts have been postponed until January.
The Lord Fairfax Health District has reported 1,137 new cases of COVID-19 over the last seven days — up from 882 cases the previous week and 550 the week prior. Every jurisdiction within the health district has shown an increase in new cases over the past week. Below is a breakdown of new cases reported since Dec. 6 and each localities’ positivity rate within the health district:
• 463 — Frederick County — 12.8%
• 221 — Shenandoah County — 17.8%
• 157 — Warren County — 15.1%
• 122 — City of Winchester — 20.6%
• 117 — Page County — 23.5%
• 57 — Clarke County — 18.5%
The health district reported 33 hospitalizations related to COVID over the past seven days (up 10) and 12 related deaths (six the previous week). Warren County reported five virus-related deaths this past week, while Clarke and Frederick counties each reported three and Page reported one.
Over the past week, Virginia has averaged 2,520 new cases of COVID-19 per day — up from 2,264 the previous week and 1,377 the week prior. Statewide hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have risen a fourth-straight week to 1,278. Currently, 292 patients are in intensive care being treated for COVID, with 164 on ventilators.
Virginia’s seven-day positivity rate also rose a fourth-consecutive week to 8.7 percent, after being reported at 7.6 percent last Monday and 6.1 percent the week prior.
Virginia reported 186 deaths related to COVID-19 over the past seven days, significantly up from 87 last week. The commonwealth has reported a total of 14,957 deaths from COVID-19 since March 14, 2020.
A total of 518 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in Page County over the past week — down from 758 the previous week. As of Monday’s report by VDH, a cumulative total of 24,923 vaccinations have been given locally, with 11,886 people in the county receiving at least one dose and 10,910 fully vaccinated (or 45.6 percent of the population). A total of 3,089 in the county have received a third shot or booster for the COVID-19 vaccine (16.1 percent of the adult population in the county). Nearly two-thirds of the COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Page County over the past week (341) were booster shots.
Statewide, Virginia has administered about 13.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with about 6.4 million receiving at least one dose and nearly 5.7 million individuals, or 77.3 percent of the adult population, being fully vaccinated. About 1.6 million Virginians have received a third “booster” dose of the vaccine.
Unvaccinated individuals and those who are not fully vaccinated should continue wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces in accordance with federal CDC guidance.
Vaccines are available by pre-registration and appointment. To pre-register, or to update your pre-registration record, visit www.vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (1-877-829-4682). English- and Spanish-speaking operators are available. Translation services also are available, in more than 100 languages. For TTY, dial 7-1-1.