By Randy Arrington
LURAY, June 28 — As of Monday, most of Page County’s COVID-19 data seems encouraging. The Virginia Department of Health only reported nine cases over the past week, with no hospitalizations and no deaths. The majority of the new cases were reported over two days (Tuesday and Wednesday), with only three of those cases reported in the last five days. Page’s positivity rate currently stands at 2.4 percent.
However, looking vaccination rates across the commonwealth, the local story is less positive. Among Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, Page County has the 11th lowest rate for the percentage of the population to have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Lee County, in the far southwest tip of the Old Dominion, has the lowest rate at 33 percent. Six of the ten lowest rates rest in the southwest portion of the state, with two others in the Tidewater region (Norfolk and Prince George) and the remaining two in the Southside (Greenville and Prince Edward). Page County is the only locality in the Shenandoah Valley — in fact, the only locality north of Lynchburg — to have a rate under 40 percent.
Here’s a regional comparison of the percentage of the population to have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within the Lord Fairfax Health District:
• 54.4% — Clarke County
• 52.5% — Winchester
• 47% — Frederick County
• 45.6% — Shenandoah County
• 42.6% — Warren County
• 38.2% — Page County
While Virginia touts being the 16th state to administer at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 70 percent of adults — a goal set by President Biden to reach nationwide by July 4 — Page County reports only 46.3 percent of its adult population has received at least one dose.
A total of 291 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in Page County over the past week (down from 372 the previous week and 434 the week before that), with the number of residents receiving at least one dose growing by 159 (up from 136) and the number of fully vaccinated residents increasing 165 (down from 252). As of Monday’s report by VDH, a cumulative total of 16,531 vaccinations have been given locally, with 9,133 people receiving at least one dose and 8,080 fully vaccinated (33.8 percent of the population and 41.4 percent of adults).
Statewide, Virginia has administered more than 9 million doses of vaccine, with more than 5 million receiving at least one dose and more than 4.3 million individuals, or 60.3 percent of the adult population, fully vaccinated.
Adjustments to COVID-19 data by health officials continue to make tracking actual new cases in recent weeks more difficult. For example, Page County saw 19 new cases of the virus reported on June 1, with another 11 cases reported the next day. However, during the same two-day stretch, Shenandoah County had 30 cases subtracted from its total. While this does not explain every case reported or taken away, Dr. Collin Greene, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said that data adjustments are likely the driving force behind big swings in cases reported recently across the district.
“The recent large variations in case counts at the county level are almost certainly accounting changes, probably based upon changes in addresses, but possibly by changes in diagnosis,” Dr. Greene told PVN. “There are numerous zip codes that cross city and county lines that can cause residency confusion. A person might also be hospitalized or tested in a different county from their residence, causing an initially incorrect entry.”
Multiple changes began popping up in COVID data in late May, but the adjustments have been almost constant in June. Shenandoah County has seen a total of 84 cases of COVID-19 previously credited to the county taken off its totals since June 1. That shift seemingly caused temporary spikes during June in both Page and Warren counties.
“I can’t tell if the similarly timed changes in Shenandoah, Warren and Page counties directly correspond to one another, but it seems likely that at least some do,” Dr. Greene said. “One risk of looking at a data set on too small a scale is that random changes and small human errors tend to get magnified — so looking at, for example, the figures for the Lord Fairfax Health District as a whole might be a better long-term measure of trends.”
The Lord Fairfax Health District reported 44 new cases of COVID-19 over the past week, along with six hospitalizations and four deaths. Frederick County reported the most new cases with 18, as well as three hospitalizations. Warren County reported 11 new cases, one hospitalization and two deaths — the county’s 60th and 61st fatalities from the pandemic. Clarke and Winchester also reported COVID deaths, the 21st and 49th, respectively. Page County’s nine cases were the third-highest weekly total in the district.
Virginia’s seven-day positivity rate is currently 1.6 percent, up slightly from a recent low of 1.3 percent on Friday. The commonwealth’s daily case count has averaged 165 over the past week, an increase over 136 the previous week.
Statewide hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are at a total of 231 as of Monday, with 63 patients in ICU and 32 on ventilators. The state reported 42 deaths related to the virus over the past seven days — same as the previous week — and a total of 11,402 since March 14, 2020.
With increased vaccination rates, public health metrics trending in the right direction, and revised federal guidelines, Virginia ended all COVID-19 mitigation measures on May 28. The state of emergency that Governor Northam declared on March 12, 2020 in response to COVID-19 is set to expire on June 30.
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.