By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Nov. 11 — The Virginia Department of Health reported seven new cases of COVID-19 in Page County on Wednesday morning. That marks the highest one-day total in the county in two weeks.
After a small rise in coronavirus cases in mid- to late-October, the beginning of November started off calm in Page County with only 13 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the first eight days of the month — and six of those cases were reported on Election Day alone.
However, the upward trend being seen in Southwest Virginia is also being seen in Page County and across the Lord Fairfax Health District. Over the last three days, Page County has reported 14 new cases of the virus, while a total of 165 new cases were reported across the district.
According to ZIP code data provided by the state health department, the recent cases have been spread throughout Page County, with six cases in the Luray area (22835), four cases in the Stanley area (22851) and four cases in the Shenandoah area (22849). There have been no cases of the virus reported in the Rileyville area (22650) since Oct. 20.
Currently, Page County’s 14-day positivity rate stands at 5 percent, according to the School Metrics data on the VDH dashboard. Those metrics also show that Page County has had a 23.5-percent increase in new cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days compared to the previous seven days. That puts Page in the “Highest Risk” category for that “secondary indicator,” according to CDC guidelines.
Page County reported new hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Frederick County continues to lead the health district in new cases, with 51 reported in the last three days. Shenandoah County has seen 41 cases of COVID-19 since Monday, while Winchester added 29. Warren County had 20 new cases, and Clarke County reported 10.
Statewide, 1,594 new cases of the coronavirus were reported on Wednesday. That marks a third day of steady increases in the daily case count across Virginia, and a sustained higher level of daily new cases that began in mid-October.
“Why are the numbers rising? They are rising right now because people are gathering and they are not wearing masks. And if you look where they are not wearing masks, you see the increased numbers,” Governor Ralph Northam said during a news briefing on Tuesday, with specific emphasis toward the rapid spread in Southwest Virginia.
Health officials across the country are greatly concerned about two factors that may continue to increase the spread of COVID-19 in the coming weeks — social gatherings of family and friends during the holidays, and colder weather driving more activities indoors where potential transmission of the respiratory disease is higher. Those same health officials are asking citizens to celebrate the holidays safely by wearing masks, washing their hands and practicing social distancing.
Currently, Virginia’s seven-day positivity rate stands at 6.2 percent. That figure has been steadily increasing since mid-October, when it stood at about 4.5 percent.
According to the Richmond-Times Dispatch, “with a growing number of reported coronavirus cases and a projected holiday surge, Virginia signed contracts with three companies to boost the state’s testing capacity. The state is averaging roughly 20,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests per day, and with the new contracts, health officials hope to boost that number to 27,000 by the end of the year.”
Valley Health officials reported during the health system’s annual board meeting on Tuesday that more than 55,000 tests for COVID-19 had been administered by the healthcare provider since the first cases appeared in March. They noted that increased testing has been a “game changer” in recent weeks in improving their ability to care for both COVID-19 patients and those who present COVID-like symptoms.
During the hour-long, virtual meeting on Tuesday, Valley Health officials also stated that current levels of COVID-19 cases across the region are starting to reach levels of the first peak in May and have exceeded the second peak seen in August. However, they say that the health system’s increased ability to test has created a better environment to handle the anticipated “dark winter” ahead. A Valley Health official stated Tuesday that they now have the capacity to conduct 20,000 tests per month, and they are prepared to distribute and administer vaccinations when they become available.
Valley Health reported that their morality rate of 12-13 percent of COVID-19 patients that they cared for during the pandemic was about half of the 25-percent mortality rate that other health systems experienced.
Currently, there are about 30 COVID-19 patients at the Winchester Medical Center, according to a Valley Health official speaking at Tuesday’s virtual meeting, with five others at regional hospitals within the provider’s network.
Hospitalizations have also been rising statewide and across the district in recent days. The state health department reported 90 new hospitalizations due to COVID-19 on Wednesday. That marks three consecutive days of increases and one of the highest single-day totals in Virginia since the pandemic began.
The Lord Fairfax Health District has reported 10 new hospitalizations in the past three days, and they are spread out among the six jurisdictions within the district. Clarke County reported the most, with three; while Frederick, Page and Shenandoah counties reported two. Winchester had one.
The only COVID-19 death reported within the health district in the last three days was in Warren County on Wednesday morning.
A cumulative breakdown by jurisdiction of the health district’s 4,570 reported cases, 374 hospitalizations and 136 deaths is as follows (hospitalizations – deaths):
- 1,377 — Frederick County (97-15)
- 1,135 — Shenandoah County (108-61)
- 720 — City of Winchester (47-4)
- 677 — Warren County (49-23)
- 516 — Page County (55-31)
- 145 — Clarke County (18-2)
Rockingham County has reported 55 cases of COVID-19 since Monday, as well as three hospitalizations and two deaths. Harrisonburg has reported 27 new cases in the last three days, but has not seen a new hospitalization in four days and no deaths since Oct. 8.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported on Wednesday that 1,265 people are currently hospitalized that have either been confirmed to have COVID-19 or are awaiting test results. That marks a fifth-straight day of increases, and the first time that figure has surpassed 1,200 since Aug. 20.
Among those hospitalized, 250 are currently in intensive care being treated for COVID-19 statewide, according to VHHA — up 26 from yesterday and up 48 since Sunday. Currently, there are 106 COVID-19 patients statewide on ventilators — up 18 from yesterday.
Since the pandemic hit Virginia, VHHA reports that 21,863 people who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 and were hospitalized, have been discharged.
VDH reported 15 new fatalities statewide on Wednesday and 13 on Tuesday. COVID-19 deaths have been relatively low in November, after a statewide surge in late October. As of Wednesday, there have been 3,741 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia since March.