The rate of community COVID-19 transmission remains relatively low in Central Virginia, but the virus remains alive and well, according to figures released by the Virginia Department of Health.
Most of the region is reporting lower rates of positive testing than the overall state figures, a sign that the virus is not running rampant in the community, although two long-term care facilities reported new outbreaks in October.
Louisa Health and Rehabilitation center in Louisa County reported 30 cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff in October and 26 cases were reported at Rosewood Village in Charlottesville. No deaths have been recorded at either facility.
Virginia reported 5.4% of tests for the virus coming back as positive during the past two weeks while the city of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Nelson, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Madison and Louisa counties all had lower percentages than the state.
The percentage is used by health officials to measure community transmission, how likely COVID is to be spread among residents through societal contact.
Charlottesville reported 1.8% of tests returning positive and Albemarle County reported 1.9% of tests coming back positive during the past two weeks. Buckingham County saw a 2.7% positive rate while Madison County was 3.2% and Louisa County’s was 3.7%.
Nelson County saw a 4% positive rate and Fluvanna County’s rate was 4.5%.
Greene and Orange counties saw higher percentages of positive test results than the state at 8% and 5.6% respectively.
Thomas Jefferson Health District officials say they are concerned that cases could increase dramatically as winter comes to Central Virginia and colder weather moves traditional family gatherings indoors.
“In the past few weeks we’ve seen a valley in the number of cases with the University of Virginia cases and really low community transmission,” said Ryan McKay, of the Thomas Jefferson Health District. “With the approaching holidays and traditionally large family gatherings, it’s giving us cause for concern.”
McKay said residents should consider postponing travel and large family gatherings this year as cases of COVID-19 surge across the country. Spikes in the number of cases usually lead to a surge in hospitalizations that could overwhelm medical facilities, making it difficult to provide adequate care to critical patients.
“What we’re hearing and seeing in parts of the country where activity is already moving indoors is a big spike in community transmission,” McKay said. “We’re already seeing hospitals get overwhelmed in Wisconsin and Salt Lake City, Utah. As we enter the influenza season, that’s going to put more pressure on hospitals.”
Social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding being indoors in close proximity to other people for long periods of time may prove difficult to maintain during the Thanksgiving and winter holidays.
“You really have to make sure that the people you are with have not been exposed to anyone with the virus, and that’s hard to do,” McKay said. “It’s also hard to maintain social distancing at family gatherings and to keep wearing masks indoors. You need to consider the risks, whether you’re traveling by commercial airliner or in a car, and how much you can limit contact with other people as well as how the others have been able to limit their contact.”
McKay said it may be wise to consider postponing holiday celebrations or canceling them until next year.
“We need to think about the risks. People are going to have to make hard choices because we’re tied emotionally and mentally to family holidays. But we know enough about the virus now to know that being indoors with other people for long periods of time, especially without masks, is a big risk,” he said.