DANVILLE, Va. — Danville and Pittsylvania County are once again experiencing a surge for COVID-19 as cases tick up across the state following holiday gatherings.
Both localities also moved into the medium community level for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For this designation, the federal agency recommends those at a high risk for severe illnesses should consider wearing a mask in public spaces.
The surge designation comes from a Dec. 23 report from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute. The organization was closed last week for the holidays and will release a new report this coming Friday.
COVID-19 infections are on the upswing across the commonwealth, following a pattern from the last two winters. Holiday gatherings were blamed in those years for the increase.
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However, UVa experts don’t believe this impending surge will be anywhere close to what happened last year when the omicron variant caused record-shattering caseloads and hospitalizations.
Even so, by Jan. 15, modules show there could be 718 infections per week in the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District.
Out of the 32 health districts in Virginia, 25 are in surges, according to UVa.
Statewide hospitalizations on Tuesday were at 1,070, the largest number since late February. That was a time hospitals were starting to see some relief from the omicron wave as cases started to dissipate.
Although COVID-19 hospitalizations likely won’t reach the levels seen last year, other respiratory illnesses mostly absent over the last two years also are causing more admissions.
“Models suggest that a surge is likely,” UVa researchers wrote in a recent update. “Combined with flu and RSV this will severely tax the hospital system.”
As far as flu, Virginia is a “very high” level, as defined by the CDC. Virginia has recorded 22,846 confirmed flu infections as of Dec. 24 and 152 outbreaks of flu, according to Virginia Department of Health data. But the health department points out that not all facilities report flu outbreaks, so the figure likely is an undercount.
Another undercount is the number of COVID-19 cases reported daily. The health department recently announced a change to the way it reports data.
To align with the practices the CDC, the state health agency is moving to a weekly report of COVID-19 cases instead of a daily update. In addition, it’s retiring a dashboard that shows the percent positivity.
Simply put, that’s a percentage that measures the positive COVID-19 test results against the overall tests administered. The health department acknowledges that this measure “no longer captures what is happening in the community.”
That’s because of at-home testing. While convenient, those results aren’t reported to a database, so many cases are simply not reported.
“While the testing encounters PCR only results are accurate, it is not fully representative of all testing in Virginia,” Logan Anderson, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health, wrote in a news release.
Vaccinations are dramatically down compared to this time last year. Currently, about 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines are administered per day in Virginia, according to health department data. A year ago — during the omicron wave — about 33,000 daily shots were given.