By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Jan. 10 — It was early March 2020, when the first cases of COVID-19 were being reported in Virginia. It would be May 13, 2020 — more than two months later — before the total case count in the commonwealth surpassed 26,000. Now, Virginia has reported that many cases in a single day.
On Saturday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 26,175 new cases of COVID-19 — a new record-high for the pandemic. Prior to the recent surge of the Omicron variant, last winter’s peak set the state record at 9,914 cases in a single day on Jan. 17, 2021. Currently, 12 of the last 13 days have seen daily statewide case counts above 10,000.
Over the last seven days, the commonwealth has averaged 16,861 new cases of the virus each day. That’s up from an average of 13,266 the week before. The two weeks prior to that averaged 6,307 and 3,286 cases per day, respectively.
The statewide positivity rate has reached 35.6 percent, by far the highest of the pandemic. Three weeks ago — five days before Christmas — the rate stood at only 9.3 percent.
Statewide hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have risen to 3,681 — up 41 percent from 2,611 the previous week. Currently, 567 patients are in intensive care being treated for COVID (up 14 percent), with 259 on ventilators (up 21 percent).
Earlier today, Governor Ralph Northam took steps to increase Virginia’s hospital capacity and support healthcare workers responding to COVID-19, after a record number of hospitalizations were posted on Friday of last week (reported in Saturday’s total). The governor issued a limited 30-day order to expand the number of available hospital beds, increase staffing capacity at hospitals and nursing homes, and allow public health agencies greater flexibility in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The limited duration is based on modeling that suggests
the virus will peak in the next few weeks.
“Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care,” Governor Northam said. “These steps will help ease the strain, giving medical professionals more flexibility to care for people. Ultimately, the best thing everyone can do for our hospitals and their staff is to get vaccinated.”
Virginia has among the nation’s lowest COVID-19 case rates and death rates per capita, and the Commonwealth ranks in the top 10 most vaccinated states in the country. However, the highly-transmissible omicron variant has increased the number of people turning to the hospital with COVID-19. The overwhelming majority of individuals hospitalized have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. In fact, one hospital company reported last week that 97 percent of COVID-19 patients relying on ventilators are not vaccinated, according to the Governor’s press release.
ICU hospitalizations have more than doubled since Dec. 1, 2021. In addition, the winter season is spurring an increasing number of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases in Virginia, impacting hospital capacity. To address this patient increase, Emergency Order Eighty-Four directs the State Health Commissioner to waive normal bed licensing requirements, allows hospitals to increase their licensed bed capacity, and mandates increased coordination between hospitals and local Medical Services Agencies.
Healthcare workers across the country are facing severe burnout and exhaustion 22 months into the pandemic. The Governor’s Emergency Order directs a number of actions to boost staff in hospitals and nursing homes. The Order allows providers with an active out-of-state license to practice in Virginia; authorizes experienced Physician Assistants to practice without a written supervisory agreement; increases provider-to-patient ratios; and provides certain liability protections to health care workers who act in good faith to protect patients.
In addition, Emergency Order Eighty-Four increases flexibility in the transfer of patients to state-operated psychiatric hospitals, which have seen dangerously-high census levels since the pandemic began.
The Virginia Department of Health has reported 226 new cases of coronavirus in Page County since Jan. 3, an average of more than 32 per day over the past week. That total includes 122 new cases just over the weekend and 60 just on Friday — the county’s second-highest daily total. A total of 212 cases were reported the previous week, and 108 the week prior to that. Zip code data provided by VDH shows the following breakdown for new coronavirus cases reported in Page County over the past seven days:
- 127 cases — Luray area (22835)
- 50 cases — Stanley area (22851)
- 45 cases — Shenandoah area (22849)
- 1 case — Rileyville area (22650)
Page County’s positivity rate has reached another record-high as well at 37.8 percent, breaking last Monday’s record-high of 36 percent. Page also reported five hospitalizations and one death related to the virus over the past week. The county’s 93rd pandemic fatality was reported on Thursday.
The Lord Fairfax Health District reported 3,554 new cases of COVID-19 over the last seven days, up from 2,574 the previous week and 1,220 the week prior to that. Every jurisdiction within the health district reported an increase in new cases and positivity. Below is a breakdown of new cases reported since Jan. 3 and each localities’ positivity rate within the health district (as of Monday, Jan.10):
• 1,496 — Frederick County — 39.9%
• 573 — Shenandoah County — 40.5%
• 546 — Warren County — 41.6%
• 541 — City of Winchester — 38.8%
• 226 — Page County — 37.8%
• 172 — Clarke County — 36.6%
The health district reported 23 hospitalizations related to COVID over the past seven days (20 last week) and three related deaths (11 last week). Shenandoah County reported two COVID-related deaths, while Page County reported one.
Virginia reported 56 deaths related to COVID-19 over the past seven days, down from 296 the previous week. The commonwealth has reported a total of 15,671 deaths from COVID-19 since March 14, 2020.
A total of 345 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in Page County over the past week — slightly down from 364 the previous week. As of Monday’s report by VDH, a cumulative total of 26,600 vaccinations have been given locally, with 12,174 people in the county receiving at least one dose and 11,113 fully vaccinated (or 46 percent of the population). A total of 4,293 in the county have received a third shot or booster for the COVID-19 vaccine (22 percent of the adult population in the county). Nearly two-thirds of the COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Page County over the past week (223) were booster shots.
Statewide, Virginia has administered about 14.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with about 6.7 million receiving at least one dose and 5.8 million individuals, or 78 percent of the adult population, being fully vaccinated. About 2.2 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.