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Covid cases continue to fall, but rate of decline slows

New Covid cases in Arlington as of 2/7/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Covid continues to infect Arlington residents at rates higher than most of the pandemic, but the slope of new cases is still pointing downward.

Sixty-seven new local cases were reported today by the Virginia Dept. of Health, bringing the seven-day moving average down to about 124 cases per day. That’s down more than 80% from the peak average of 646 cases per day on Jan. 12.

The test positivity rate in Arlington, meanwhile, continues to fall. It’s now 8.2%, down from the peak of 29.3% on Jan. 2.

Covid test positivity rate in Arlington as of 2/7/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The sustained decline of the current Omicron wave in Arlington is indisputably good news, but there are caveats.

First, 124 cases per day is still well above the average rate of new cases for everything other than the previous peak of the pandemic roughly a year ago.

Second, the downward trend is flattening, suggesting that the baseline rate of new cases may be higher with the more infectious Omicron variant.

Finally, people are still getting seriously ill with Covid. In the week since the start of the month, four people have been hospitalized due to Covid symptoms. The number of Covid-related deaths in Arlington, meanwhile, has increased by a net of 10 during that time.

(The Virginia Dept. of Health’s reporting of Covid deaths has been uneven during the past few months, however, with pauses and jumps due to new practices, identified issues, and backlogged processing.)

Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman said in his latest public social media update that the emergency department is also seeing a big drop in cases, though the overall picture is a mixed bag due to complications from prior Covid infections during this winter’s wave.

“In my last shift, I actually did not diagnose any patients with Covid. That is pretty amazing,” he wrote. “We have seen the number of patients who present with symptoms that we diagnose come down by about 90% over the last 6 weeks… We were diagnosing more than 200 patients a week who presented with symptoms a month ago and now, over the last couple of weeks, we’re in the range of 10-20 patients/week.”

“However, I saw several patients with persistent shortness of breath 2-3 weeks after having COVID and despite a fair amount of testing, I wasn’t able to determine a cause,” he added. “I haven’t written much about long COVID because we don’t typically see it in the ER, but I do wonder if we’ll start to see more Omicron patients who present with persistent respiratory symptoms.”

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