As COVID-19 levels continue to increase around the Richmond area, Henrico County has been moved to the “medium” transmission level after weeks of low transmission.
Chesterfield and Hanover counties are also experiencing medium levels of transmission.
Richmond is likely to enter the medium level of transmission in the coming weeks, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts issued a statement urging continued vigilance against the coronavirus.
The districts said in a statement: “Because increasing case counts are observed across the entire region, RHHD recommends Richmond residents also take precautions. Individuals who are immunocompromised, at high risk for severe illness, or who spend time with high risk individuals should consider wearing a mask around others.”
Free at-home tests are available at select Richmond Public Library locations, and more community testing events will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
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“We understand that moving into a medium level may leave folks feeling frustrated or tired,” says Dr. Melissa Viray, acting director of the districts. “However, this is what we’ve been preparing for. We have an opportunity to implement CDC guidance to minimize the worst impacts of a COVID surge while still functioning as a society.
“If we stay up-to-date on COVID vaccinations and implement more prevention measures during times of increased transmission, we can protect our most vulnerable and maintain health care’s capacity to care for us ... all while still being able to maintain some activities in person.”
The University of Virginia’s model suggests cases could rise for the next two months, peaking at nearly 40,000. But whether cases follow the model or seriously increase hospitalizations remains unknown and depends on how people respond, Viray said.
The CDC designates each locality in the country as either low, medium or high transmission based on the rate of cases and hospital admissions and the percentage of inpatient hospital beds used for COVID cases.
Hospitalizations in the state have increased from an average of 151 on April 17 to 227 on Monday. Those numbers are minuscule compared with the 3,700 hospitalizations during the peak of omicron.
While diminished, COVID deaths have not disappeared. There were an average of seven deaths per day in the past week in Virginia. While the unvaccinated still make up the majority of deaths nationwide, the vaccinated accounted for 42% of COVID fatalities in January and February, according to The Washington Post. Most deaths occurred in the elderly, whose immune response generated by vaccines wanes faster than in younger people.
Two new variants of omicron continue to proliferate in the United States. The BA.2 variant currently accounts for about 58% of cases in the Mid-Atlantic. The newer BA.2.12.1 represents about 41%.
Like the original omicron, these variants appear to be more transmissible and less severe, Viray said.
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Staff writer Eric Kolenich contributed to this report.