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Covid cases near seasonal lows in Arlington, but flu season looms

Covid cases in Arlington as of 9/28/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

(Updated at 9:50 a.m.) Covid cases have held relatively steady in Arlington for most of September, as the weather turns cooler and flu season looms.

Just under 50 cases per day are being reported on average over the past week, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. The test positivity rate has been falling and now stands at 11.6%.

The last month with generally lower case totals was March, after which cases started gradually rising before peaking around Memorial Day and starting an even more gradual decline.

In his weekly public Facebook post last week, VHC Health emergency department chief Dr. Mike Silverman said the hospital is also seeing lower levels of Covid.

We saw a noticeable decrease in the number of new COVID diagnoses we made this week in the ER and the percent positive rate dropped. We’ve been seeing a general decline in the COVID cases since late August but among symptomatic patients, this past week was one third lower than the last several weeks and less than half the number we were seeing in mid-August. The percent positive rate for our “symptomatic” patients was about 30% in mid-August and was just below 17% this past week. Among all comers, despite testing more than in mid-August (our ER volume is higher), our percent positive rate has dropped from approximately 13% to 6.4% and we’ve seen about a 40% drop in the number of patients we diagnosed with COVID this week compared to mid-August. We are 30-40% less than we were seeing the last few weeks. We also have a few less people requiring hospitalization this week compared to recent weeks. One week doesn’t make a trend but the numbers are similar to previous declines we’ve seen so I’m optimistic we’re on the downward slide of the curve for now.

Silverman said he’s also optimistic about the positive effects of the new bivalent vaccine booster shot, which are designed to be more effective against the current Omicron strains of the virus. Arlington County has been offering the shots, which are also available in pharmacies and elsewhere, for just over two weeks.

Despite optimism, cooler weather and increased time indoors typically brings a rise in respiratory disease.

October often marks the start of flu season, and this year’s flu season may be especially bad. There are also anecdotal reports of an uptick in cold-like illnesses currently circulating in the area.

Arlington, meanwhile, has seen two consecutive years in which Covid cases spiked in the fall or winter. In 2020, the rise started in late October or early November. In 2021, it started in early December.

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