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NEW: Another Covid case record amid huge lines for tests

Covid cases in Arlington as of Dec. 30, 2021 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) A brief downturn in reported Covid cases in Arlington after Christmas was just that — brief.

With people returning from their holiday trips and testing locations back open, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported a new local  record today for the seven-day moving average of daily cases.

There were 633 new cases reported in Arlington today, the second-highest single day total of the pandemic, after the 687 cases reported on Christmas Day. That brought the seven-day average to 424 daily cases, a new record.

About 1.25% of the Arlington population has tested positive for Covid over the past week, a number that does not include those who are sick but testing with at-home kits or skipping getting tested altogether amid huge lines and shortages.

Arlington Public Library ran out of its latest supply of 2,000 at-home test kits within 20 minutes of beginning distribution today, while the county is advising residents getting tested at county-sponsored testing booths that they must be in line at least an hour-and-a-half before closing time.

The good news is that reports of serious illness from the current Omicron variant wave remain low in highly-vaccinated Arlington County. The seven-day moving average of new Covid-related hospitalization ticked up slightly today to around 1.5 per day.

Hospitalizations in Arlington as of Dec. 30, 2021 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Five Covid deaths were reported on Tuesday, but the state health department said those were mostly attributable to backdated reports of Arlington residents who died from Covid while out of state. Excluding those, two Covid deaths have been reported over the past week.

The county’s test positivity rate, meanwhile, continues to climb, suggesting that the increase in cases is not just due to higher levels of testing. As of today the test positivity rate was up to 16.2%, after rising every day since hitting 3.3% on Dec. 3.

Test positivity rate in Arlington as of Dec. 30, 2021 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in a statement yesterday that the big rise in cases is “not a reason for panic.” He and other elected leaders continue to urge vaccination as a way to avoid the worst health impacts of a Covid infection.

From Northam’s statement:

The COVID case numbers are a reason for concern, but not a reason for panic. It’s important to understand why.

We have all studied the “number of cases” for many months now, but this data point means something different today, compared to this time last year.

One year ago, vaccines had just become available, so nearly no one had gotten a shot. Today, more than 14 million shots have been given in Virginia. Only nine states have given more shots, and those states are all larger than Virginia. That’s good news, and it’s thanks to a lot of hard work by Virginians.

Vaccinations are keeping people safe, even as the omicron variant spreads. Data from around the world show that if people have gotten vaccinated, and then get COVID, then symptoms are likely to be minor. That’s how the vaccines are designed to work, and it’s more good news.

As the virus becomes endemic, it’s now time to study not only the number of cases, but also the severity of symptoms and the number of people going to the hospital.

The data are clear: Nearly everyone going to the hospital with COVID is unvaccinated. This is entirely avoidable, if everyone gets their shots.

This is really important, because people working in hospitals are exhausted–nurses, doctors, and everyone. They have worked tirelessly for months to care for people who have gotten sick. Please go to the hospital only if you believe you really need to. It’s not fair to put even more pressure on hospital workers to care for people whose hospitalization is avoidable.

Arlington County says more test sites are coming soon, given high demand. The county is strongly encouraging residents to make appointments for testing.

“As the transmission increases, the demand for testing has as well,” Arlington’s health department said in an email this week. “Walk-in COVID-19 tests at County Curative kiosks may not be available due to holiday volumes and weather-related shipping delays. Appointments are strongly encouraged and longer wait times should be expected.”

Photos and video of some of the lines for Covid tests at Arlington libraries and testing booths today, via social media, are below.

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