MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The stunning, record-tying 151 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the West Piedmont Health District on Friday were the product of a backlog of cases – not some huge outbreak.
But the addition of three more deaths across Henry, Patrick and Franklin counties and the city of Martinsville is not an anomaly.
Friday’s report from the Virginia Department of Health for data collected by 5 p.m. Thursday added those 151 cases to the totals, matching the high set on Jan. 7 during the post-holiday surge.
But all these new cases didn’t happen in the past week.
“I’m relieved to tell you that this is due to a data dump that includes cases even in August,” district spokesperson Nancy Bell said in response to questions. “According to District Epidemiologist Sharon Ortiz-Garcia, she was notified this morning [Friday] that the lab had an issue with its reporting system, which now has been rectified.
“Apparently, demographic data was missing due to this error.”
Deaths always are lagging indicators of infections and hospitalizations, and these latest deaths could have happened just about any time because VDH goes through a tedious verification process. Weeks or even months can pass before a death is recorded.
We know from basic data that these deaths were residents of Henry, Patrick and Franklin counties — all are tracked by residence – that push the district’s total to 363 and September’s total to 22.
Henry County has had 137 deaths, Patrick County has had 50, and Franklin County has had 91.
We know the Henry County resident is a white male between the ages of 60 and 69, and we know the victims from Patrick and Franklin counties were a white man and woman, one 60-69 and the other at least 80 (as most victims have been).
Franklin County was hit very hard by Friday’s case dump, adding 88 new cases and a hospitalization. Henry County also saw 54 new cases, about what the district had been averaging for seven days.
But with Martinsville contributing five new cases — and the other hospitalization – and Patrick County adding four, the district’s 7-day average of new cases spiked to 69 and 50.1 per 100,000 population.
The spike in cases had been more curious because there were no new outbreaks included in Friday’s update of that dataset – only Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Franklin County shows as an active outbreak – although some schools across the district have dozens of active cases.
To explain this Bell shared a criterion list that included, in part:
“It is possible there may be positive COVID-19 cases at a school; however, if those cases were not directly associated with that school, such as a person got COVID-19 from a separate gathering (e.g. a birthday party), those cases would not be reported as a part of the outbreak at the school.
“They would still be reported to VDH as a positive COVID-19 case. All schools must report a COVID-19 case to their local health department.”
To that point, schools this past week updated the data dashboards they post on their sites that showed 85 cases in Henry and Patrick County schools and Martinsville City Public Schools.
Patrick County Public Schools reported Wednesday that it had 37 active cases of COVID-19 among students and stuff, up by two from last week, and 123 individuals are being quarantined (10 more). Most of those (22 and 49, respectively) were at Patrick County High School.
Henry County Public Schools on Friday reported 34 new cases and 107 quarantined students and staff. Magna Vista and Bassett high schools had the most in each category, but there were quarantines on every campus (but not department) in the district.
Martinsville City Public Schools does not post quarantines but on Friday did add 14 new cases this week, six of those at Martinsville High School.
As of Friday, the district reported 2,291 cases involving children ages birth through 19 (up by 12 from Thursday). The 10-19 group was 1,756 of those.
The number hospitalized remained at 14, with eight of them 10-19. Data by age is not reported by locality.
COVID-19 testing is expanding through free drive-thru testing each Friday at the armory in Martinsville. VDH officials fear that they don’t have a full grasp of all cases because some who have symptoms aren’t bothering to test.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in the past seven days there have been more than 1,500 tests performed of residents of the district, and positivity rates range from 10.49% in Patrick County to 15.86 in Henry, 16 in Martinsville and 19.88 in Franklin County.
VDH also reported Friday that vaccination rates have increased throughout the health district and that 57,190 are now fully vaccinated, an increase of nearly 800.