Although the seven-day rolling percent positivity rate for COVID-19 in the Thomas Jefferson Health District decreased this past week, health officials are as concerned as ever about the spread of the virus.
Citing data from Thursday, health district public information officer Kathryn W. Goodman said the rate across the district was about 6.6%, down from last week’s 7.6%.
Though the average may have dropped across the district, Albemarle County and Charlottesville had seven-day averages of 7.7% and 7.8%, respectively. The health district also includes the counties of Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson. The state’s rate on Friday was 7.5%.
According to the World Health Organization, an indicator that the pandemic is beginning to be controlled is a percent positivity rate below 5% for a period of at least two weeks.
“We certainly saw that our positivity rate decreased a little bit, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that COVID is gone, COVID is definitely still here,” Goodman said. “It’s still spreading rapidly through the community and we’ve had a few complicated investigations where it’s been a lot of people [who were] exposed.”
It’s important that people remember to follow all prevention measures and to start thinking about the places they have been in the past 14 days where they may have had any potential exposures in order to help with contact tracing, Goodman said, as most recent cases have been tied to community spread.
On Friday, 46 new cases were reported for a total of 1,551 across the health district. There are considered to be 19 outbreaks, 312 outbreak-associated cases and 116 cases among health care workers, which is a nine-case increase from the previous week.
In the span of five days, 137 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the health district, with the biggest jump in the 20-29 age group, which saw 29 new cases in five days.
Since July 1, 613 cases had been reported in the health district as of Friday.
Per data from the Virginia Department of Health, an outbreak was reported at the Cedars Healthcare Center in Charlottesville. As of July 10, there were 67 cases and zero deaths at the facility.
Goodman said the health district is concerned about any outbreaks at long-term care facility due to the presence of medically vulnerable residents.
“We’re certainly working with all of the nursing homes and assisted living facilities on any outbreaks that are currently in progress, previous outbreaks and preventing any future outbreaks,” she said. “We try to work closely with the facilities to make sure they have all the resources they need, which could be everything from [personal protective equipment] to staffing, supporting testing needs and also just guidance on best practices for how to prevent and mitigate further spread.”
Multiple other area long-term care facilities are dealing with new COVID-19 outbreaks, including Albemarle Health and Rehabilitation, with six cases; and Heritage Inn Assisted Living and Memory Care, in Albemarle County, with 45 cases. No deaths related to the virus have been reported at any of those facilities recently.
Goodman said the health district currently has the capacity to host two or three testing sites per week, with each site being able to test as many as 72 people. Information about testing locations can be found at vdh.virginia.gov/thomas-jefferson/covid-19-testing-sites.
However, though the health district is looking to increase its testing capacity, Goodman said the district also is dealing with the need for regularly offered health services and the strain that puts on staffing.
“It’s back to school season, so whatever the decision might do for the schools, people still need to get their vaccines and we still want to make sure that people are getting access to those provided care services,” she said.
The health district is working with both local hospital systems to see what their plans are for moving forward to offer community testing sites, Goodman said, though there have been “a few hiccups” along the way.
“Sentara Martha Jefferson held their last testing site at Washington Park last night, which they did over the month of July and had a great turnout,” Goodman said. “We’re working with the University of Virginia Health to see how we can add some partnerships and agreements to work on testing together moving forward in a community.”
Over the next week, Goodman said the health district is launching two media campaigns targeted at encouraging people to wear face masks and at spreading accurate information.
“One of them is called ‘It’s on you’ because it’s on people, both literally and figuratively, to wear face masks to help our community remain open,” she said. “For schools to open, for businesses to remain open, for people to keep going to the beaches — they need to be wearing face masks.”