The Pittsylvania-Danville Health District has again set a new record for a single-day report of COVID-19 cases.
There were 372 new infections added to the database Saturday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The figure did not come into public view until Monday since the department doesn’t update its dashboard over the weekend.
That means the local district is averaging 196 new cases per day.
By comparison to the surge one year ago, the largest increase in a day was 207 new cases on Jan. 17, 2021. The average seven-day count was 120 infections then.
“The rising number of cases indicates substantial spread of the virus within our community, which is disheartening and concerning,” Sovah Health officials wrote in a Friday statement.
“The low vaccination rates in our regions leave our communities incredibly vulnerable to severe illness, hospitalization and death.”
The spike forced Sovah Health to place a two-week pause on elective surgeries.
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The omicron variant — an extremely transmissible altered version of the novel coronavirus — is blamed for the sharp rise in COVID-19 infections. Although evidence shows on average the variant causes milder illness compared to other strains, the extreme number of people infected is fueling a worry for understaffed hospitals in the state.
In the Dan River Region, only about half of the population is considered fully vaccinated and only about 1-in-5 people have had a booster shot, a critical step to protect against the omicron variant, experts report.
Across the state there were 3,681 patients hospitalized Monday with COVID-19, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association dashboard showed. That’s the higher number recorded in the pandemic.
“The current situation is serious and if things remain on the current trajectory for an extended period — particularly because we know hospitalizations as a metric tend to slightly lag behind rising case counts, and some of the modeling projections suggest that this current surge may not yet have reached the point where it will crest and begin to recede (some modeling suggests that may occur later this month) — we could face the possibility of straining the limits of the system’s capacity,” Julian Walker, the spokesperson for the association, said in a Friday statement.
In Pittsylvania County, half of COVID-19 tests are coming back with a positive result, the highest in the pandemic. Danville’s positivity rate is slightly lower at 43.97%, but also at the record level.
The majority of those hospitalized haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“To be honest, I’m seeing less of those unvaccinated patients make it back home,” Dr. Sheranda Gunn-Nolan, chief medical officer at Sovah Health, said in a Friday media call.
Sovah Health is preparing for possibility of increased hospitalizations as cases grow.
By Jan. 30, the local health district could have more than 3,000 weekly infections, according to the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute.