Covid appears to be on the decline in Arlington, but hospitalization levels rose sufficiently last week to move the county to the CDC’s “medium” Covid level.
The level moved from “low” to “medium” as of last Thursday. The latest Virginia Dept. of Health stats, however, show cases falling to a seven-day moving average of 38 per day as of yesterday (Tuesday), from a seasonal peak of 65 cases per day just before Christmas.
The CDC level change was prompted by a rise in Covid-related hospital admissions above the 10 per 100,000 residents per week mark. That metric stood at 12 as of Thursday.
Among neighboring jurisdictions, D.C. and Fairfax County are both at the “medium” level, while Alexandria is now at the “high” community level due to a combination of infection and hospitalization rates.
Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Mike Silverman, in his weekly Facebook post Friday night, said the hospital is “full” but Covid cases are declining.
After a couple of weeks of very high emergency department volume, our hospital is full. My colleagues are seeing this all over the country as well. This makes it more challenging to care for the patients coming into the emergency department as we have more patients “boarding” (waiting on their inpatient bed to be available) than typical. Even though our ER volume has come down a little bit compared to recent weeks, it still feels just as chaotic because of all these extra patients waiting for a bed to be available.
Along with a slight drop in volume, we have also seen a decrease in the amount of COVID were diagnosing. Overall, we diagnosed about 20% less patients with COVID this week compared to the prior 2 weeks. Our overall percent positivity fell from about 16.5% to 12.4%. The biggest drop we saw was in our symptomatic patients. Although we had about 20% less patients classified as symptomatic, we had about a 40% drop in the number of positives. This correlates to a 31% positivity rate dropping to a 21% positivity rate. Our general screening percent positivity remained stable at about 11%. For these patients, either the clinician has a low suspicion that the patient has COVID, but COVID is included in the differential diagnosis, or they are asymptomatic and require testing for admission/surgery/etc.
Consistent with the reduction in new diagnoses, we also saw a reduction in the number of patients who required COVID isolation in the ER compared to the prior two weeks. And the hospital has about 20% less admitted COVID patients than we did last week.
In another sign that we’ve reached the later stages of the pandemic, Arlington County is permanently closing its public vaccine clinic next month.
The announcement was made this morning.
“Demand has significantly decreased at the County’s clinic, with COVID-19 vaccines now widely available in the community through pharmacies, urgent care centers, and medical providers,” the county said in a press release. “As such, the final day of operations for the clinic at Sequoia Plaza (2100 Washington Blvd.) will be Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022.”
The clinic first opened nearly two years ago and saw long lines for the original vaccine after it was made available. In addition to its closing, the county announced that all but one of its Covid testing booths are closing.
“All County Curative COVID-19 testing kiosks will close on Nov. 30, 2022, except for the Arlington Mill Community Center location,” the press release said. “The closure of kiosks aligns with a significant decline in kiosk testing demand across the County (an 80% decline since Nov. 2021) and the widespread availability of at-home and pharmacy-based tests.”
Covid case rates in Arlington have held relatively steady over the past month and currently stand at a seven-day moving average of 30 cases per day, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That’s about the middle of the range for what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a “low” Covid level.
Meanwhile, some of the public health attention has shifted to rising levels of flu and the childhood illness RSV.
“The emergency department is pretty much as busy as we have ever seen it,” Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Mike Silverman wrote Friday in his weekly public Facebook post. “Our volume this week (and actually last week) is 20+% higher than our typical volume. We are definitely seeing this with the flu and RSV numbers. We’re also seeing this in the increased number of pediatric patients coming to the ER.”
The full Arlington County press release about the clinic and testing booth closures is below.
(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.
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.
The county announced today that it has started taking appointments for the updated Covid vaccine, which is expected to be more protective against the Omicron variant. Appointments are available for those ages 12 and over at the Arlington Dept. of Human Services office at Sequoia Plaza (2100 Washington Blvd).
For now, walk-ins are not being offered. The older Covid vaccines remains available for children younger than 12.
As before, shots of the new vaccine are being offered for free, and are also available in local pharmacies.
Arlington has seen generally falling Covid infection numbers, but the virus is still circulating, including in schools and childcare centers. As of today, the Virginia Dept. of Health is reporting a seven-day moving average of about 55 daily cases in Arlington.
More on the vaccine availability, from an Arlington County press release, below.
Appointments are now available for a free COVID-19 bivalent (updated) booster through Arlington County Public Health. Boosters are available starting Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2022, by appointment only. No walk-ins will be allowed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone ages 12 and older gets an updated booster if it has been at least two months since they completed their primary series or booster vaccination.
Make an appointment online with Arlington County Public Health though the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS). If you need ADA accommodations or require assistance scheduling your appointment with Arlington County Public Health, call 703-228-7999.
Additional opportunities to get COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available in and around Arlington through pharmacies and other medical provider – visit vaccines.gov to find a location near you.
The new updated boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are targeted specifically at the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant. The bivalent Moderna vaccine is authorized for people ages 18 years and older, and the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for people ages 12 years and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech monovalent (original) COVID-19 vaccines are now only authorized as booster doses for children ages 5-11 years.
Arlington County Public Health is also now offering the Novavax vaccine as a 2-dose primary series for those ages 12 and older. Novavax is another option for people who may be allergic to or prefer not to get an mRNA vaccine. For a complete list of vaccines offered, visit our website.
Please bring your vaccination card with you so your provider can add your booster dose. Children 17 years and younger must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
More information about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters is available on the CDC’s website.
For those seeking protection against highly transmissible diseases over the cold weather months, it is also flu vaccine season.
With updated Covid boosters now approved, the county has paused providing shots to adults as it waits for its supply from the state.
As of this past Friday, Sept. 3, Arlington County Public Health Division is “unable to offer booster dose appointments for Pfizer or Moderna vaccines” per the county’s website.
This is because “the currently available mRNA vaccines are no longer authorized for booster doses for people ages 12 years and older.”
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of updated Covid booster shots that are specifically formulated to better protect against the omicron variant. Also in accordance with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation to use these “bivalent vaccines,” the county has stopped administering the older vaccines.
However, Arlington has yet to receive the newer, updated vaccines from the state.
“We are waiting on the supply we pre-ordered through the Virginia Department of Health,” Arlington health department spokesperson Sondra Dietz wrote ARLnow via email.
She said residents will not be able to schedule vaccine appointments until that happens.
“We will update appointment scheduling in VAMS when we have received the two vaccine boosters,” Dietz said. “In the meantime, please check vaccines.gov to search for appointments in and around Arlington, which includes pharmacies and other medical providers.”
There’s no “definitive timeline” on when updated boosters will be received by the county from VDH. However, there are other locations in Arlington that are currently offering the updated boosters with more on the way in the coming days.
Effective immediately, eligible residents of VA are able to receive the new, free COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccinations, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna. The updated boosters specifically target the Omicron BA.4 & BA.5 subvariants. News Release: https://t.co/cM7GHczb92
— Va Dept of Health (@VDHgov) September 7, 2022
All 153 Giant Food pharmacies in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Delaware are now administrating the updated Pfizer vaccine as a single booster dose, a company spokesperson told ARLnow yesterday. That’s available for anyone 12 years or older and two months out from receiving their last booster dose or initial series of vaccines.
“Select” Giant Food pharmacies are also administrating the updated Moderna vaccine for those 18 years and older. Giant is no longer providing the previous mRNA vaccines to those 12 years or older.
Safeway pharmacies in Arlington are planning to have the updated boosters by the end of the week, per a spokesperson.
While adults can no longer receive the previous iteration of the vaccines as boosters, they are still available for children. Earlier this summer, the federal government approved the vaccine for children and recommended that kids as young as 6 months old could get it.
The county is continuing to administer the previous Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to that age range by appointment only at the Arlington Mill and Walter Reed community centers.
Last week, the state health department released a Covid modeling update that showed rates across the state are in a “slow decline.” While there could be surges in the fall and winter, the updated boosters could blunt the impact.
“Models suggest minor case surges in the Fall barring the introduction of a new variant,” reads the VDH’s report from Sept. 2. “An aggressive new variant, in combination with holiday travel and colder weather, could cause another surge in December. But bivalent vaccine boosters could cut this surge short.”
Arlington is currently seeing a seven-day moving average of 44 daily Covid cases, according to the latest VDH data. That’s down from more than 160 daily cases three months ago.
Have you had sex with multiple partners — or someone whose name you don’t know — over the past two weeks?
If so, you’re now officially eligible for a monkeypox vaccine in Arlington.
Arlington County has widened its previous vaccine eligibility criteria to include people of all genders and orientations who are engaging in potentially risky sexual behavior. That includes those who “have had anonymous or multiple (more than one) sexual partners in the last two weeks.”
As before, sex workers or staff of “establishments where sexual activity occurs” are included regardless of gender.
Arlington’s health department, meanwhile, has launched a new online request system for the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine.
About 4,700 people in Northern Virginia have received the monkeypox vaccine so far, according to VDH.
More from an Arlington County press release, sent Thursday afternoon, below.
The Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) has expanded eligibility for the monkeypox virus vaccine and launched a new appointment request process.
The expanded vaccine eligibility aligns with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) criteria and now includes Virginia residents of all ages of any sexual orientation or gender who meet one of the following:
- Have had anonymous or multiple (more than one) sexual partners in the last two weeks; OR
- Are a sex worker; OR
- Are a staff member at an establishment where sexual activity occurs (bathhouses, saunas, sex clubs, etc.)
The criteria for being vaccinated may be updated in the future.
Close contacts of known cases continue to be eligible and prioritized for the monkeypox vaccine.
ACPHD also launched a more streamlined process to request an appointment for a first dose of the monkeypox vaccine. People who meet the eligibility criteria can request an appointment by visiting acphdmpv.timetap.com. ACPHD will review all requests to verify eligibility before confirming the appointment.
Starting this week, ACPHD also began administering the monkeypox vaccine using the intradermal (in between the layers of the skin) method and dose in accordance with federal and VDH guidelines. People ages 18 years or older who received their first JYNNEOS dose by the subcutaneous (under the skin) method will receive their second dose by the intradermal method to complete their vaccination series.
Monkeypox is a contagious rash illness caused by the monkeypox virus. In most cases it resolves without treatment. It is spread by close contact with an infected person. Close contact includes touching skin lesions, bodily fluids, or clothing or linens that have been in contact with an infected person. Spread can also occur during prolonged, face-to-face contact.
While anyone can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone with the virus regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, many of those affected in the current global outbreak are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained contact with other people who have monkeypox.
Currently, the highest risk activity is having sex with multiple or anonymous partners. Avoiding these activities greatly reduces one’s risk of catching or spreading monkeypox. Monkeypox does not spread from person to person from walking past someone who is infected or through casual conversation with someone who is infected.
If someone has a new or unexpected rash or sores, they should work with their health care provider to determine the cause. Health care providers in Arlington can visit ACPHD’s Monkeypox for Healthcare Providers website for more information and how to contact us should they have questions.
Arlington County and the rest of the immediate D.C. area is now in the CDC’s “low” Covid level.
The county was moved from “medium,” where it had been since April, to “low” this afternoon, after the number of weekly cases per 100,000 residents dipped below 200, to 195.
Arlington is currently seeing 6.3 weekly hospital admissions for Covid per 100,000 residents, per the CDC’s website. Just under 5% of staffed inpatient beds are in use by patients who are Covid positive.
Arlington’s Covid positivity rate has also been falling, from around 22% just over a week ago to 17.6% today, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.
The District of Columbia, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Charles County are all also now in the CDC’s “low” Covid level.
Despite the good news, cases reported by health authorities are becoming a less reliable metric as of late due to the prevalence of at-home rapid testing.
Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman, in his weekly public Facebook post last week, cautioned against reading too much into case trends.
The number of reported positives that you find online is probably not the best statistic to follow anymore. Certainly, many and possibly a large percentage of people are diagnosing themselves with rapid tests and never getting counted in the total case count. Hospitals and testing centers continue to report their data. The number of patients who remain hospitalized with COVID has remained fairly constant at VHC. But over the last 4 weeks, we have seen a decrease in the amount of emergency department patients who required our COVID isolation status. The total number of cases being diagnosed in the ER in both the symptomatic and asymptomatic population remains fairly consistent. Over the pandemic, we’ve had months where our weekly case count would go down into the single digits. That has not been the case for the last several months. We have had a steady state of patients that we diagnose each week that is not too far below the total number that we saw during our first winter peak/surge in December 2020. Unfortunately, COVID is certainly going to be with us for quite some time.
The rate of reported Covid cases continues to slowly fall in Arlington, while the number of monkeypox cases slowly rises.
The local seven-day moving average of new Covid cases is now 83 cases per day, down nearly 60% since Memorial Day, according to the latest Virginia Dept. of Health data. Separate data from the CDC suggests that hospitalizations have risen over the past week, from 6.6 per 100,000 residents per week to 8.4.
The county, meanwhile, saw about one new monkeypox case per day over the past week. All seven new cases since last Monday — Arlington has reported a total of 39 cases since the start of the monkeypox outbreak — are among male patients, according to VDH data.
Arlington’s health department says its monkeypox vaccination effort is continuing, with nearly 700 vaccine doses administered as of this past Thursday.
From a county press release:
The Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) continues to respond to the ongoing spread of the monkeypox virus and is working with community partners to ensure those who have been exposed or are at highest risk of exposure to monkeypox receive a vaccination.
ACPHD continues to provide monkeypox vaccine to close contacts of known cases and those at increased risk of exposure to reduce their chances of developing monkeypox. ACPHD has been offering the vaccine since late June and is currently operating clinics by appointment only six days a week. As of Aug. 11, 2022, ACPHD has administered 699 total doses of monkeypox vaccine.
Vaccine appointment invitations are being extended to those who have completed the Monkeypox Vaccine Interest Survey (open to all Virginia residents) AND meet the eligibility criteria. As new vaccine shipments arrive, ACPHD will issue new appointment invitations. The eligibility criteria may change as the outbreak evolves and based on vaccine supply.
Vaccine supply remains limited nationwide. ACPHD has been working with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which authorizes the priority groups for the monkeypox vaccine and allocates vaccine doses to local health districts.
On the Covid front, Arlington County is ending its local emergency declaration today, as planned. The nearly two-and-a-half year-long state of emergency gave county leaders greater powers to respond to the pandemic.
The Local Emergency for Arlington County, originally declared in response to the public health threat posed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), ends on Aug. 15, 2022.
The declaration, which went into effect on March 13, 2020, was established to assist in the response and recovery efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed the County to shift to virtual operations, including online permitting, appointments, remote inspections, County Board and Commission meetings, as well as public comment.
“The declaration has been an important tool offering the flexibility needed to better serve our residents, businesses, and visitors,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “The added authorities under an emergency, such as the ability to alter procurement, hiring and zoning rules has served us well. However, as we have learned to cope with a pandemic that will be with us for many months to come the need for these emergency authorities has dwindled.”
Many of the new tools, strategies, and approaches borne out of the pandemic will continue as the County moves beyond the local emergency declaration
Arlington is now setting up appointment-only clinics to vaccinate against monkeypox as cases continue to rise across the region.
The Virginia Department of Health has expanded access to the monkeypox vaccine to “those groups at increased risk for exposure,” per Arlington health department spokesperson Sondra Dietz, allowing the county to run the clinics.
The Arlington County Public Health Division is now running clinics 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday, by appointment only, Dietz told ARLnow. As of this morning, 511 total doses of monkeypox vaccine have been administered by the county health department, another spokesperson said.
The county is asking anyone is who interested and is eligible to receive the vaccine to fill out the vaccine interest form. The form is open to all Virginia residents and not just Arlingtonians; so far, there is no word on how many people have filled out the form.
Just over two weeks ago, ARLnow reported that the county was not yet planning any clinics due to VDH’s “limited” supply of monkeypox vaccine JYNNEOS. It appears that since that time VDH has started to provide more vaccine supply to individual localities. This has allowed Arlington to proceed with vaccinating those in high-risk groups, not solely those “contacts of known cases.”
“As ACPHD receives new vaccine shipments, we will issue new appointment invitations,” writes Dietz.
To be eligible to get the vaccine in Virginia, an individual must be a Virginia resident and 18 years or older. Per the county and VDH, the criteria to receive the vaccine also include:
Within the last 14 days are:
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners; OR
- Transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men; OR
- Sex workers (of any sex); OR
- Staff (of any sex) at establishments where sexual activity occurs (e.g., bathhouses, saunas, sex clubs); OR
- Persons (of any gender or sexual orientation) who attend sex-on-premises venues (e.g., bathhouses, sex clubs)
NOTE: If you had monkeypox, then you likely have some protection against another infection and are currently not eligible to be vaccinated.
The county also noted that eligibility “may change as the outbreak evolves and based on vaccine supply. ”
This comes as the federal government declared monkeypox a “public health emergency” late last week and cases continue to rise across the region.
As of today, VDH is reporting that there are 32 known and confirmed cases of monkeypox in Arlington. That encompasses just under a quarter of all the cases in Virginia. A majority of people who have monkeypox are between 20 and 39 years old and are white or Black, per VDH data.
Of the 145 people with monkeypox in Virginia, all but one are reported to be male.
Symptoms usually start appearing a week or two after exposure and can include blister-like rash, fever, body aches, and exhaustion. The symptoms can last 5 to 21 days.
The news this morning brought a good reminder that Covid is very much still circulating.
President Biden has tested positive for the virus and is receiving antiviral treatment and has “very mild” symptoms, the White House said. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was among those wishing the president well.
Best wishes to @POTUS for a swift and full recovery. I appreciate that he is setting a good example by following the science and the public health advice to avoid putting others at risk. Covid is still here, and modeling responsible behavior is a key function of leadership.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) July 21, 2022
In Arlington, meanwhile, the average number of daily Covid infections has remained remarkably steady over the past month, in contrast to the ups and downs of the past 2+ years.
As of today the county is seeing a seven-day moving average of 124 cases per day. Weekly Covid-related hospital admissions are up slightly from earlier this month, from 5.9 to 6.3 weekly admissions per 100,000 residents, according to CDC data.
Arlington’s test positivity rate is still above 20% — it’s 20.7% as of this morning — amid continued low rates of PCR-based testing, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.
Covid might not be going away any time soon, but Arlington County’s Local Emergency Declaration, made in response to the pandemic, is.
The declaration is being sunsetted as of Aug. 15, County Manager Mark Schwartz announced at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. That will mean a return to more in-person county commission meetings and a need for County Board action to allow expanded outdoor restaurant seating areas past February 2023.
Schwartz declared a local emergency on March 13, 2020. It was approved by the Board the next day.
More from a county press release:
County Manager Mark Schwartz announced the end of the Local Emergency Declaration on Aug. 15, 2022. The declaration was established to assist in the response and recovery efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration allowed the County to shift to virtual operations, including online permitting, appointments, remote inspections, County Board and Commission meetings, as well as public comment.
A few highlights as the County moves beyond the local emergency declaration:
Virtual and Hybrid Commission and Advisory Board Meetings
A new Virginia Electronics Meeting Policy goes into effect September 1, 2022, that will offer additional flexibility for hosting virtual and hybrid meetings. This new policy offers most of our Commission and Advisory Boards the option to conduct an all-virtual meeting two times (or 25 percent of all meetings) annually and allows for remote participation for the public and individual Commission Members on exception.
Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs) for Outdoor Dining
During the pandemic, the County stood up TOSAs as an emergency response to indoor dining restrictions and to provide an expedited process for new or expanded outdoor seating at restaurants. Many people have enjoyed outdoor dining with family, friends, and colleagues and these provisions have been critical to restaurant owners for business operations during this time.
Even with the ending of the state of emergency, the TOSA permissions continue under the Continuity of Government Ordinance for another six months through February 2023. Over the next six months, the County will be working to create longer-term solutions that apply the lessons learned from TOSAs to permanent zoning regulations for outdoor seating. The County Manager will provide an update to the County Board in November.
Though monkeypox cases continue to rise in the region, the county has yet to open vaccine clinics for the disease.
Supply of the monkeypox vaccine JYNNEOS remains “limited,” county spokesperson Ryan Hudson tells ARLnow, and Arlington is coordinating with the Virginia Department of Health to obtain and administer doses.
However, at this moment, there are no planned vaccine appointments or clinics to administer those doses in Arlington to those who are at higher risk and might have been exposed in the last 14 days.
“VDH is still working to expand vaccine access for Virginians who are at higher risk of being exposed to monkeypox and meet CDC criteria,” Hudson wrote ARLnow in an email. “Information about who will be eligible and how they get vaccinated will be provided when it becomes available both on the VDH site and County site.”
This is in contrast to D.C., which made limited, pre-registered monkeypox vaccine appointments available late last month.
While monkeypox cases are rising in Virginia, they remain relatively low compared to the District which has the highest rate of monkeypox cases per capita in the country.
As of this morning (Wednesday), the Virginia Department of Health is reporting that there are 56 cases of monkeypox in the Commonwealth. Three-quarters of those cases, 42, are in the Northern Region, which includes Arlington.
This is a relatively rapid rise from only a few weeks ago when, in late June, VDH announced there were only 8 cases in the entire Commonwealth. The first case in Northern Virginia was detected back in late May.
County Manager Mark Schwartz spoke briefly about monkeypox at the County Board meeting yesterday afternoon.
“Our Public Health Division is coordinating with the Virginia Department of Health and local health care providers to test for potential cases and to provide guidance on isolation and treatment,” Schwartz said. “We are reaching out also to and monitoring all contacts of potential cases.”
He also noted that the vaccine supply is “pretty limited” and “only being offered to residents who are at high risk of getting monkeypox and have likely been exposed in the last 14 days.”
Monkeypox can spread through direct contact with infectious rashes, scabs, body fluids, or through “respiratory secretions,” according to the CDC. This includes having “prolonged, face-to-face contact” or “intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex” with someone who is infected.
The virus can spread to and make anyone sick, though the highest risk groups at the moment are men who have had sex with men and with multiple partners over the last several weeks, sex workers, transgender women and nonbinary persons who have sex with men, and people who work in places where sex occurs like saunas and bathhouses.
The CDC and VDH define “higher risk” as those who are in these groups and might have been exposed over the last 14 days.
Health agencies have struggled with messaging, in that the virus is impacting the male gay community more at this moment but agencies do not want to further stigmatize an already marginalized group.
Monkeypox causes rashing and potentially other symptoms over a course of several weeks. The West African type that’s making its way around the globe is “rarely fatal,” says the CDC website, though “symptoms can be extremely painful, and people might have permanent scarring resulting from the rash.”
If one is already infected with monkeypox, health officials note, the vaccine is not an effective treatment.
“If someone suspects they have a monkeypox infection, they should contact a healthcare provider,” writes Hudson.