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COVID-19 community transmission rate rises in region

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has categorized Albemarle County, Charlottesville, Fluvanna County, Greene County and Nelson County as high transmission areas for COVID-19 in the community as of Friday, listing Louisa County as medium.

The positivity rate in the region is about 14%, which is around the same as it was at the onset of the pandemic reaching the United States in March 2020. University of Virginia Medical Center officials report treating 24 patients with COVID-19. 18 are in acute units, four are in the ICU and two are in the pediatrics unit.

UVa’s COVID-19 tracking website shows an average of 16 new cases a week among both students and staff with a 25.6% positivity rate. The rate may be misleading as the number of at-home COVID tests kits makes it easier for people to determine if they may have the virus.

Those who do not test positive are unlikely to report the test findings, meaning tests reported to the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC are skewed to positive tests. For instance, on May 25, 72 people were tested for COVID with 16 new cases reported. On Jan. 25, 550 people were tested and 57 cases were reported.

Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVa Health, said more people are getting the more accurate tests after testing positive for COVID-19 on an at-home test.

“That may inflate that number,” Sifri said. “But the chances that somebody who has symptoms will test positive is relatively higher now than it was at other parts of the pandemic.”

Sifri said the good news is that the community is at a different place than it was in March 2020, with prevalence of vaccines and both at-home and PCR tests. Sifri said most stocks of at-home tests have been quickly replenished.

“We do have a lot more tools now than we did before. We have a widely vaccinated population,” he said.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 community levels ratings are the most recent tool designed to help communities and individuals decide what preventive steps to take based on the latest data. The levels come with recommended mitigation measures, including that people living in high community levels of COVID-19 transmission wear masks indoors in public, and stay up to date with vaccines testing if they have symptoms.

Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness.

Regardless of community levels, the CDC recommends people with symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask. Masks are also recommended in indoor public transportation settings.


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