A day after recording nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases, the Virginia Department of Health on Monday reported 7,245 more, marking the state’s second-highest single-day increase.
That’s twice the number of new cases reported a month ago, 3½ times the cases on Nov. 18 and eight times the cases on Oct. 18.
Starting in December, Virginia has broken its own record in cases at least 10 times, beginning with an almost 4,400 case spike on Dec. 9, two weeks after Thanksgiving.
Health Department officials have said this is likely to be due to exposures stemming from recent holidays, but concerns among lawmakers persist that the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — where many rioters among a crowd of thousands were without masks — could contribute to yet another surge in a state that borders the nation’s capital.
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Toward the end of last week, Virginia was seeing slight drops in the numbers of new cases reported, and the percentage of people testing positive fell below 15% for the first time since December.
Now it’s averaging more than 6,100 cases per day over a seven-day period while the positivity rate stays around 14%.
A COVID-19 model from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute that updates each Friday predicts the state could reach a peak of weekly cases in mid-February with at least 50,232 reported. This could continue into April, partially due to the slower-than-promised vaccine rollout and pandemic fatigue.
Most of Virginia’s major health districts — including Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield — started phase two of vaccinations on Monday, which includes people ages 65 and over, front-line essential workers and those with high-risk conditions. Gov. Ralph Northam estimated in last week’s briefing that this would make eligible nearly half the state.
The supply Virginia needs to meet the demand will likely not come in for months following the federal government’s reversal on a promise to states that they’d receive an increase in doses this week from a stockpile that didn’t exist.
On a call with reporters Saturday, Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution coordinator, said the state would require about 350,000 vials per week to reach herd immunity by summertime — roughly 50,000 doses used per day.
That’s three times the supply currently allotted to the state. Of the more than 300,000 dose requests filed throughout the state last week, there were only 106,000 to allocate, Avula said.
Due to limited supply, phase two vaccination clinics in the Richmond area are prioritizing workers in the first three categories outlined by the VDH: police, correctional facilities and homeless shelters and schools.
Monday’s vaccine data update shows Virginia has distributed 34.4% of its doses, which is nearly a 10% increase from last week. But this continues to fall below the national average of almost 46%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Virginia is now 43rd in the country when it comes to percentage of vaccines given. Last week, it was 48th. Avula said Saturday that the largest contributor to this is the lag in reporting, which a newly hired 10-person team at the VDH will start troubleshooting this week in hopes of catching up.
Vaccine data from the VDH is about three days behind and fluctuates daily as information comes in, but Monday numbers show Virginia averaging 16,432 doses administered per day.
Northam has set a goal of averaging 25,000 doses per day. The first time the state has reached that number was on Jan. 14.
With COVID-19 testing, getting to an average of 25,000 tests took eight months.
More than 34,400 people have been fully vaccinated and nearly 290,600 people have received at least one dose. Under the first phase of health care personnel and long-term care residents, state officials said there are 500,000 people.
Hospitals and local health departments have administered about 75% of all vaccinations.
Of the state’s 5,739 total deaths, 707 were reported since Jan. 1.
The state’s total caseload is at 446,550, an increase of more than 17,000 since Saturday.
On Monday, current COVID-19 hospitalizations in Virginia were at 3,151 patients, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s online dashboard, which is the most accurate representation of hospitalizations. Almost 35,500 people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout the pandemic have been discharged.
Since Saturday, Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico saw increases of 2,216 COVID-19 cases and 14 hospitalizations but no additional deaths.
The area now has had a total of 51,438 cases, 2,273 hospitalizations and 746 deaths.
Richmond has had a total of 11,416 cases, 603 hospitalizations and 118 deaths.
The Chesterfield Health District, which consists of Chesterfield, Powhatan County and Colonial Heights, has had 18,688 cases, 729 hospitalizations and 229 deaths.
Henrico has had 16,163 cases, 736 hospitalizations and 316 deaths. Hanover has had 5,171 cases, 205 hospitalizations and 83 deaths.