Danville’s COVID-19 death toll increased yet again Thursday morning.
So far, eight fatalities of Danville and Pittsylvania County residents have been reported in September from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. There were 14 virus deaths added in August.
These latest — one man and one woman — were revealed when the Virginia Department of Health updated its dashboard Thursday based on information received by 5 p.m. Wednesday. One person was in his or her 60s, and the other was 80 or older.
Also on Thursday, the death toll from outbreaks increased by one, although it’s not clear if that rise is related to the two new deaths added.
Sovah Health-Danville is seeing more deaths from the latest surge of COVID-19, spokesperson Hailey Fowlkes confirmed.
Even though recent deaths were in people 50 and older, younger people are dying from the virus. It often takes at least two weeks before a death officially reaches the COVID-19 database. That’s because health officials must wait for the official death certificate to verify the virus was a cause.
In a Tuesday video, Dr. Sheranda Gunn-Nolan, market chief medical officer with Sovah Health-Danville, acknowledged local patients in their 30s have died from COVID-19 in the past week.
“It’s obscene,” she said, notably shaken by the rise in cases and fatalities recently.
Sovah Health was treating 49 patients across both the Danville and Martinsville facilities on Wednesday, the same level as a week earlier. The hospital did not specify how many patients were in Danville.
Hospitalizations continue to increase across the state. On Thursday, some 2,144 patients in Virginia were being treated for COVID-19.
Gunn-Nolan is worried the rising trend will continue locally.
“We have high concerns with all of the festivals, fairs, fall activities that continue to happen over the next few months,” she said, also noting the hospital supports social distancing and mask wearing as ways to slow this spread.
Danville and Pittsylvania County added 66 new infections Thursday morning, dropping the 7-day rolling average to 64. That compares to a time in late February.
The ultimate line of defense is getting more people vaccinated, she said.
“All it takes is rolling up a sleeve,” she urged residents in the video. “If not for you, do it for those you love.”
Even though it’s possible to contract COVID-19 in someone who’s fully vaccinated, the illness is often less severe. Shots decrease the risk of hospitalizations and death, Gunn-Nolan said.
Although still extremely elevated, the positivity rate has dropped in the last few days. Pittsylvania County’s 7-day average is 25.85%, meaning that 1-in-4 people tested for COVID-19 yield a positive result. Danville’s rate is 15.87%. Both are staggering compared to the 5% threshold the Centers for Disease Control uses to determine if a virus is under control in a community.
However, to balance the slight drop in positivity, fewer people are being tested. In Pittsylvania County, there were 50% fewer COVID-19 tests given during the past seven days compared to the previous week. Testing in Danville is down more than 30%.
When asked if there’s a local shortage of testing supplies, the Pittsylvania-Danville Health Department sidestepped the question and instead provided the Register & Bee with a link for residents to find local testing sites. However, some areas of the state — including Fredericksburg — have reported the recent demand for testing far outpaces the current supplies available.