Virginia recorded 1,539 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the lowest single-day increase the state has seen since November. The percentage of people testing positive for the virus dropped to 9.3% over the weekend and 284 fewer patients were hospitalized with the coronavirus since Friday’s update, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.
The downward trends are promising after January’s high of nearly 10,000 cases in one day. But there’s widening concern among public health officials that another peak could be likely if residents relax their behaviors while the number of highly transmissible variants in the U.S. continues to grow.
Epidemiologists at the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute — which has tracked COVID-19 trends for nearly a year — outlined three potential scenarios for the upcoming months taking the variants into account.
One where people ignored restrictions and vaccinations didn’t accelerate alongside the new variants projected a 40% increase in transmission by May, launching Virginia back to numbers as high, if not higher, than January — which was also the deadliest month of the pandemic.
“To avoid high peaks, we must give vaccines time to have an impact, especially as new variants become more prevalent across the nation,” the report said. “Do your part to stop the spread. Continue to practice good prevention and get vaccinated when eligible.”
On Friday, UVA confirmed cases of a strain that originated in the United Kingdom. The Virginia Department of Health found the first case in the eastern part of Virginia the same day. A total of at least 11 Virginia cases have been identified in the past month.
Across 40 states in the U.S., there are 1,173 cases of the U.K. variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, has said in White House COVID-19 briefings that it will likely become the dominant strain within a month.
In a newsletter to UVA students on Friday, Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and the chair of the Department of Medicine, Dr. Mitch Rosner, said the university was experiencing “a troubling rise in positive cases in our student community” as more cases of the variant are confirmed.
“If cases continue to increase, our isolation and quarantine capacity will become strained and we will be forced to consider stricter measures, including a shift to Short-Term Restricted Operations,” the letter read.
The restrictions would include moving all undergraduate classes online and limiting the ability for students to travel on or off campus.
While 33 of 35 health districts are seeing downward trends — and Monday’s case increase is half the number reported on Friday — the cases and hospitalizations are mimicking what the state saw two months ago.
Virginia is currently averaging almost 3,000 daily cases, which was last seen the first week of December.
This is 2.5 times the highest seven-day average recorded during the August surge — 1,198 new infections.
In the past week, there have been roughly 2,062 people hospitalized with the virus each day. Before November, the highest average of hospitalizations over a seven-day period was on May 12, with 1,573.
More than 1 million people have been vaccinated with at least one dose, according to VDH data updated Monday. This is slightly more than 12% of the state’s population.
Nearly 1.4 million shots have been given and, of that number, 337,968 people are fully vaccinated.
Virginia has received more than 1.7 million vaccines and, of the shipments allotted for first doses, roughly 93% have been administered. For second doses, about half of the supply has been used.
The state has consistently surpassed the national average for weeks in a sharp improvement from its first month of the rollout. As of Monday, Virginia is among the top 10 in the country for percentage of vaccines given.
Richmond and the surrounding counties of Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico have had a total of 63,214 cases, 2,450 hospitalizations and 825 deaths.
Richmond has had 14,057 cases, 655 hospitalizations and 148 deaths. Chesterfield has had 22,412 cases, 753 hospitalizations and 215 deaths.
Henrico has had 20,392 cases, 814 hospitalizations and 358 deaths. Hanover has had 6,353 cases, 228 hospitalizations and 104 deaths.