A post-Thanksgiving rise in Covid cases has continued unabated this week.
On Thursday, Arlington County recorded 85 cases, the biggest one-day case total since Feb. 6. The seven-day moving average of new daily cases is now 62, the highest point since mid-February.
The test positivity rate in Arlington is now 4%, a point last seen in August.
Cases are also rising at Arlington Public Schools, according to the school system’s Covid dashboard. So far this week there have been 56 positive cases, compared to 43 last week, according to APS data.
With high rates of vaccination in Arlington, reports of serious illness remain low, however. One Covid-related death has been reported since the start of the month. The net number of hospitalizations for the month is actually negative — down by three — after the Virginia Dept. of Health cleaned up some previous hospitalization data.
In a statement yesterday, Northern Virginia health districts referred to the current rise in cases as a new “winter surge.”
As disease transmission increases, Public Health leaders in the Northern Virginia region (Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington Counties, including all towns and municipalities- and the City of Alexandria) are encouraging residents to maintain their vigilance in curbing the spread of COVID-19 to minimize hospitalizations and deaths during this winter surge.
Since the start of this pandemic almost two years ago, there have been more than 2,600 COVID-19 deaths, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 230,000 cases in northern Virginia. Many of the hospitalizations and deaths occurred during last winter’s surge.
Fortunately, this winter we have wide access to vaccinations, which have been shown to lead to a dramatic reduction in hospitalizations and death. Additionally, indoor mask use in work and school settings has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of transmission; this is seen most strikingly in the higher number and size of COVID-19 outbreaks in school settings where masks are less used, such as in athletics or in schools that have higher rates of mask exemptions.
“Northern Virginia residents have continually shown that we can work together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic – through vaccination, indoor mask use, testing and staying home when sick,” said Dr. David C. Rose, health director for the City of Alexandria. “We all need to keep up our defenses throughout the winter surge to best protect ourselves and to keep our kids in school.”
Health Directors in the Northern Virginia region are closely monitoring the rapid increase in cases in Northern Virginia and the disease trends locally, as well as the potential impact of the Omicron variant. Their recommendations are based on those trends in addition to vaccination coverage, the presence of COVID-19 variants and other factors.
With more people spending time indoors with others as cold weather sets in, public health leaders encourage everyone to maintain their layered prevention activities which may include:
- Get all members of your family age 5 years and older fully vaccinated, including booster shots if eligible.
- Wear a mask indoors when around those not in your household.
- Stay home when sick.
- Socially distance – stay six feet from others as much as possible.
- Avoid crowded and indoor areas where distancing is not possible, or where you will be in close contact with those whose vaccination status is unknown.
- If you think you may have COVID-19 or may have been exposed, get tested and follow guidelines for isolation and quarantine.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available. This will help prevent many diseases, including the seasonal flu.
- If you are not fully vaccinated, stay away from others and get tested 3-5 days after returning home from travel.
While we can’t predict how COVID-19 may act in the future as new variants emerge, we do know that maximizing these mitigation steps is the best way to protect our community, keep children in schools, and safely make it through this winter surge.
Also yesterday, the state health department said it has identified the first known case of the new Omicron variant in the Commonwealth.
“Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that the first confirmed case of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has been identified in a sample from an adult resident of the Northwest Region of Virginia who had no history of international travel, but did have a history of domestic travel, during the exposure period,” said a press release.
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