Covid cases hit new record in Arlington, but test positivity rate starts to trend down

Covid cases in Arlington as of Jan. 10, 2022 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) There’s some hope that the current Omicron wave of Covid cases in the D.C. area may be near a peak, but new data in Arlington is a mixed bag in terms of whether that’s actually the case.

The county’s seven-day moving average of new cases hit a fresh high today, with 548 new cases being reported each day, on average. Saturday also reached a new single-day case record, with 867 new cases.

After weeks of staying low, Covid hospitalizations have also taken an upturn amid the surge of new cases. Five new hospitalizations were reported today in Arlington, bringing the seven-day moving average to just below three hospitalizations per day.

Covid hospitalizations in Arlington as of Jan. 10, 2022 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

No new deaths have been reported in Arlington so far in 2022, but according to the Virginia Dept. of Health that may be delays in implementing a new way of classifying Covid fatalities.

Regardless, the county’s high vaccination rate likely has contributed to the relative lack of serious illness and death. As of today, 94.6% of the adult population in Arlington has been vaccinated.

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s Face the Nation this weekend that he believes the Omicron wave is peaking in Mid-Atlantic cities, including in the D.C. area.

While the case data is still pointing upward, the test positivity rate in Arlington has taken a downturn, perhaps supporting the idea that a peak is near.

The Covid test positivity rate peaked at 29.3% on Jan. 2 in Arlington. It has come down since then and currently stands at 27.1%.

Covid positivity rate in Arlington as of Jan. 10, 2022 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Statewide, Virginia hospitals say they’ve surpassed the peak Covid hospitalization numbers of January 2021, straining the healthcare system.

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he was taking steps to temporarily increase hospital capacity in the Commonwealth.

A press release noted that “modeling… suggests the virus will peak in the next few weeks.”

Governor Northam today took steps to increase Virginia’s hospital capacity and support healthcare workers responding to COVID-19, after a record number of hospitalizations were posted on Friday of last week. He issued a limited 30-day order to expand the number of available hospital beds, increase staffing capacity at hospitals and nursing homes, and allow public health agencies greater flexibility in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The limited duration is based on modeling that suggests the virus will peak in the next few weeks.

“Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care,” Governor Northam said. “These steps will help ease the strain, giving medical professionals more flexibility to care for people. Ultimately, the best thing everyone can do for our hospitals and their staff is to get vaccinated.”

Here in Arlington, Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman wrote in his weekly Facebook update that “the number of new cases we’re diagnosing is on a whole different scale than previous surges.”

First off, we are diagnosing a lot of COVID in the emergency department. Patients classified as being symptomatic are testing at a 64% positivity rate. That is up from 59% last week. The good news is we had less symptomatic patients this week than during the holiday week and an overall decline of about 20% of new positive cases among this group of people. It is really crazy to look at the graph that I have kept throughout the pandemic because the number of new cases we’re diagnosing is on a whole different scale than previous surges. We’re seeing 5 times more positive cases among our symptomatic patients that in either of the previous surges. We’re also doing a considerable amount of testing on patients that are classified as asymptomatic. As a reminder, these are patients generally being admitted to the hospital for non-COVID related reasons or have symptoms that are not consistent with COVID. The positivity rate among these patients was less than 1% last week of November. This week, it was over 29%, up from 24% the week previous.

“The Coronavirus is not done with us yet,” Silverman’s post concluded.