Charlottesville and Albemarle County have moved into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ‘medium’ COVID-19 community level, which recommends those who have been vaccinated for the virus may go without facemask.
The CDC started the community level tool in late February to help communities and individuals decide what prevention steps to take. Charlottesville and Albemarle were at the ‘high’ level, which recommends wearing mask and social distancing, until the newest numbers came out Thursday evening.
Albemarle and Charlottesville school divisions are looking at the levels as they consider their mask requirements for staff and visitors, as is Albemarle at its County Office Buildings.
For localities in the medium level, the CDC recommends talking to a doctor about mask use if a person is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
The levels are determined by looking at new COVID-related hospital admissions over the previous week, the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.
Both Albemarle and Charlottesville are now considered at the medium level because the new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days is now fewer than 200.
“I think what we’re seeing, and I think probably many of us are feeling, is that COVID is reducing its footprint in our community,” Dr. Costi Sifri, University of Virginia Health’s director of hospital epidemiology, said on a Friday call with local media. “It’s also reducing its impact here on patients in the hospital and given that we can be thoughtful about how we use masks and other mitigation strategies.”
He said the CDC recommendations for masking in the medium level seem “quite reasonable” to him.
“I think as part of the conversation making sure that they’re up to date with their COVID vaccine status is also equally important,” he said.
The hospital has experienced a “significant decrease” over the past several weeks in the number of COVID-19 patients, Dr. Reid Adams, UVa Health’s chief medical officer, said.
As of Friday, UVa has 18 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 — 10 of those are in acute units, six are in the ICU and two are pediatric patients, Adams said.
In terms of getting back to normal visitation status, Adams said the test positivity rate is still “modestly high.”
“I think we have a little bit more room to go before we would be able to make that switch in terms of the full visitation, but I think if things continue to move in the direction they are, that’s looking positive over the next week or two,” he said.