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Summer's sharp drop in coronavirus cases has ended, experts say

Summer's sharp drop in coronavirus cases has ended, experts say

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To reduce the chance of outbreaks in Hampton Roads, health experts are advising unvaccinated residents to get inoculated.

To reduce the chance of outbreaks in Hampton Roads, health experts are advising unvaccinated residents to get inoculated. (Nathan Papes/AP)

Pandemic data scientists say the aggressive delta variant that ravaged India is likely dominant in the state — or will be soon — increasing the risk for unvaccinated Virginians to get the coronavirus.

The summer’s sharp decline in new COVID-19 cases appears to have stopped, with the majority of Hampton Roads cities and counties now experiencing slow growth, according to a new forecast by the UVA Biocomplexity Institute.

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Across the state, 2.7% of standard nasal swab tests were positive last week, an increase from 1.6% three weeks ago, according to health department data. In Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore, rates are higher, with nearly all in the 3% to 5% range.

With lax behavior and delta spreading, the state could expect daily cases to rise to 32 per 100,000 people in early September, according to the institute’s analysis. That’s about half the peak the state experienced in January.

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State health officials are tracking variant cases identified through lab testing. Over the past week, the number of confirmed delta infections had doubled.

To reduce the chance of outbreaks, health experts are advising unvaccinated residents to get inoculated. For those who can’t, they urge mask-wearing, keeping 6 feet from others and washing hands frequently.

Public health officials say vaccination will be the most effective tool at stopping the pandemic, which has killed over 11,400 Virginians and infected 532,000.

In areas with high vaccination, epidemiologists expect that outbreaks will still occur among unvaccinated individuals but will have less ability to spread.

One week ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began assisting local health departments in the mostly rural, western part of the region with spreading information about vaccination. Through a door-knocking campaign, they’re visiting neighborhoods and businesses and showing people where to find shots.

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States rose to 34 million last week, according to Johns Hopkins University, and about 608,000 Americans have died. While cases have declined nationally, the global pandemic remains in full swing. About 189.1 million people have had confirmed infections, with 4.1 million deaths.

During the past week, seven people were reported to have died from the virus in Hampton Roads: two in Chesapeake; and one each in Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, and Mathews and Middlesex counties.

Virginia Beach had the region’s highest count of new infections last week, reporting 179 new cases. It was followed by Chesapeake, with 106.

High caseloads are expected in bigger cities, but sometimes communities with fewer people see greater rates of new cases per capita. For last week, Virginia Beach also ranked among the highest rates in the area based on population size, at about six per 100,000 people, with Isle of Wight and York counties in the same range.

In Eastern Virginia, about 73% of hospital beds are occupied, according to data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. About three weeks ago, intensive care unit hospitalizations and emergency room visits for coronavirus-like symptoms appear to have started increasing again.

About 4.5 million Virginians, or 53% of the population, had been fully inoculated as of Friday. Those figures include people in the state who have been vaccinated through the military, Veterans Affairs and federal prisons. Approximately 59% of Virginians have at least one shot.

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Here’s a look at vaccination rates throughout the region:

In Virginia Beach, 59% of adults and 49% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 44% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In Norfolk, 45% of adults and 38% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 34% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In Newport News, 55% of adults and 44% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 39% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In Chesapeake, 58% of adults and 47% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 42% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In Portsmouth, 49% of adults and 39% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 34% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In Hampton, 54% of adults and 45% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 40% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In James City County, 73% of adults and 61% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 55% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In York County, 65% of adults and 53% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 48% of all residents are fully inoculated.

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In Suffolk, 56% of adults and 45% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 40% of all residents are fully inoculated.

In Williamsburg, 53% of adults and 48% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 43% of all residents are fully inoculated.

For other pandemic data, go to www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

For more information on where to find vaccines, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or www.vaccines.gov. For phone assistance, call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA.

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