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August was a deadly month for COVID-19 cases in the region

August was a deadly month for COVID-19 cases in the region

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — If you want to know precisely how the coronavirus pandemic has burrowed itself into this part of Virginia, these startling numbers pretty much tell it all:

In August there almost more cases in Henry County than there were in June and July combined, and the number of deaths nearly doubled the total of all previous months.

To be specific Henry County saw 347 cases of the virus in August – more than 10 per day –and 10 people died. Another 36 went to the hospital.

But that was just the picture in Henry County. Consider these other snapshots across the West Piedmont Health District:

  • Martinsville had more new cases (200) and the same number of deaths (3) in August as ALL other months combined.
  • Patrick County nearly tripled its number of deaths (eight vs. three in all prior months) and more than doubled its case count as well (118 in August vs. 111 before that).
  • For the month the district recorded 725 cases, 21 deaths and 88 hospitalizations in 31 days.

These data are based on the Virginia Department of Health’s daily reports recorded on the first day of each month.

Consider that on May 1, about six weeks into the pandemic, the district had 39 cases – 21 of those in Franklin County – and now has 1,662 cases, you can see this summer has showed us no love.

VDH and the West Piedmont officials tell us very little about hospitalizations and deaths. They track cases and testing by myriad data sets – breaking them down by geography, ethnicity, age and gender, but we only know a person’s place of residence when he or she gets a full blow case of COVID-19 and perhaps succumbs to it.

Officials won’t discuss precisely the outbreaks that effect larger groups of people, but we know from reporting that these have occurred at at least three senior-care facilities, several businesses and one school. We know that multiple employees testing positive for the virus changed plans for educating students in Patrick County. We know about some temporary shutdowns and the aggregation of some deaths.

District spokesperson Nancy Bell often is left to respond to questions with the generic reference to “HIPPA laws won’t let us disclose that.”

But basically what the public knows is what is gleaned from the morning reports that arrive in graphics and data sorts on the VDH’s website.

And for most of July and August those reports have been startling. We have seen 71% of all cases, 77% of all deaths and 79% of all hospitalizations happen in those months.

The daily rates: 19 cases, 2.5 hospitalizations and .4 deaths for each of those 62 days.

The irony here is that August ended quietly, or those could have been higher. VDH reported Tuesday morning that there were 14 new cases in the district, with only one hospitalization and no deaths. And there had been only two new cases on Sunday.

Henry and Patrick County each had five new cases in Tuesday’s report, with Franklin County having three and Martinsville one.

As the U.S. has surpassed 6 million cases of COVID-19 and some 184,000 or more have died, you have seen reports of how Virginia has not grown its cases as fast as many other states, with about 122,000 infections statewide.

Since the pandemic began Henry County has had 849 cases, with 92 hospitalizations and 16 deaths. Martinsville has had 328 cases, with 49 hospitalizations and six deaths.

Patrick County, one of the last in the state to record a case and had only two on June 1, now has 229, 46 hospitalizations and 11 deaths. Franklin County has had 216 cases but only 11 hospitalizations and one death.

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