Three months after Virginia confirmed its first case of a COVID-19 variant, at least 965 of the state’s 652,321 coronavirus infections have been caused by one of five variants currently circulating the state.
The state lab is working to boost its capacity to analyze test samples for variants, but so far it has analyzed barely 1% of the total coronavirus cases in Virginia since March 2020.
On Friday evening, the Virginia Department of Health launched a new dashboard on its website with variant-related statistics. The dashboard shows that 50 Virginia residents have been hospitalized with infections from variants and five have died.
One of the five deaths occurred in the Chickahominy Health District, which includes Hanover County. Three of the five involved people in their 60s.
More than 4 out of 5 of Virginia’s variant-caused infections are attributed to the highly contagious United Kingdom variant. Chesterfield County’s health district has had 51 cases of the U.K. variant, while Henrico County’s health district has had 45. The Richmond Health District has had 20, and the Chickahominy Health District has had 13.
About 44% of the state’s confirmed cases of variant infections have been among Virginians ages 29 and younger. The same ages account for about 35% of all COVID-19 cases recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Ballad Health, a hospital system serving Southwest Virginia and parts of Tennessee, reported last week that patients with COVID-19 are getting younger, with some barely in their 20s. The average age of an infected Ballad patient has dropped to 58 this year. In 2020, it was 67.
What Ballad Health is seeing is occurring nationally, a trend that health officials have linked to contact sports and people in their 20s being more likely to go to bars.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said vaccinations are accelerating at a high pace, but it’s occurring as cases and hospitalizations increase in parts of the country.
“And cases among younger people who have not yet been vaccinated are also increasing,” Walensky added.
A possible turnaround is how Pfizer is looking for emergency authorization for children ages 12 to 15, upon finding a 100% efficacy rate in clinical trials.
Currently, the only vaccine available to people younger than 18 is Pfizer’s. All Virginia residents 16 and older became eligible to receive the vaccine last Sunday.