By every measure, the COVID-19 pandemic in Virginia is worsening again.
New cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates are soaring across the state and region, although mostly among unvaccinated individuals, according to new data from the Virginia Department of Health.
Statewide, the seven-day average has soared to 543 cases, the highest since May 14, and Friday's 750 new cases were the most in a single day since May 8. The state's average has more than quadrupled since hitting a low of 129.3 cases a day on June 20.
In fact, Virginia's seven-day average is just 42% below the average on the same date last year, when mask mandates were in place and the state was just emerging from lockdowns — and that gap is narrowing every day.
As of Friday morning in Rappahannock County, 359 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since last March, up by 4 since last Friday and 9 since June 25. Two residents have died and 15 have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic.
After being relatively flat for several weeks, hospitalizations for treatment of COVID-19 have also begun to rise again. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported Friday that 415 confirmed or likely COVID-positive patients were being treated statewide, an increase of 62.1% in just the past week. And the number of those patients in intensive-care units is above 100 for the first time since June 11.
Meanwhile, the average positivity rate of diagnostic COVID-19 tests has increased dramatically statewide. Average positivity rates remain under 5%, the level at which experts believe the spread of the virus is under control. The state is reporting the results of over 60,000 diagnostic tests a week and nearly 100,000 tests overall — those numbers have remained relatively level over the past few months.
Health officials have attributed the summer surge in cases to a significant slowdown in vaccinations and the spread of the Delta variant, which is more contagious that earlier strains of the COVID-19 virus.
The state began tracking the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) in mid-June and has reported 213 cases through Friday, up 55 from the number a week earlier. Only a small percentage of positive samples are tested for variants, so the actual number of cases is higher.
A new dashboard from the state health department also tracks the numbers and percentages of cases among unvaccinated versus vaccinated individuals. It shows that between May and July 9, only about 2.5% of new cases statewide were among fully vaccinated residents.
The pace of vaccinations statewide has remained steady over the past month at between 11,000 and 12,000 a day, according to the state's vaccination dashboard. However, that's the slowest pace since early January, just weeks after the vaccines began to be administered.
Over 9.31 million vaccine doses have been administered to Virginians, with 64.5% of the adult population and 53.4% of the total population now fully vaccinated.
In Rappahannock, 56.1% of the adult population and 48.5% of the total population are now fully vaccinated.
The number of deaths reported statewide from COVID-19 has remained low in recent week, with only 23 reported this week. However, deaths tend to be a lagging indicator and can often take several weeks to verify and report; throughout the pandemic, deaths have begun to increase three to four weeks after an increase in cases. In Northern Virginia, three new deaths were reported this week: two in Prince William County and one in Fairfax County.
LATEST COVID-19 DATA
New Cases/Deaths (Seven days ending Friday, July 23)
Northern Virginia: 881 new cases (up from 479 prior week); 3 new deaths (down from 7 prior week)
Statewide: 3,801 new cases (up from 2,352 prior week), 23 new deaths (down from 29 prior week)
Statewide Testing: 65,298 PCR diagnostic test results (up from 62,384 prior week)
Rappahannock County: 359 cases, 2 deaths
Statewide: 688,300 cases, 11,500 deaths
Statewide Testing: 7.89 million PCR diagnostic tests (10.51 million when including antibody and antigen tests)
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) cases: 77.
*Provided by Virginia Department of Health. The health department's COVID-19 data is updated each morning by 10 a.m. and includes reports by local health agencies before 5 p.m. the previous day.
Statewide Hospital and Nursing Home Data
Hospitalizations: 415 (up from 256 on July 16)
Peak Hospitalizations: 3,209 reached Jan. 13
Patients in ICU: 105 (up from 73 on July 16)
Patients Discharged: 57,761 (301 this week)
*Provided by Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association
For updated national and international COVID-19 data, visit the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus dashboard.
Editor's note: The Rappahannock News is providing regular COVID-19 updates every Friday. For daily reports, visit the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard.