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Virginia's death toll for coronavirus hits 12,000 — and counting - The Virginian-Pilot

Virginia's death toll for coronavirus hits 12,000 — and counting - The Virginian-Pilot

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Nearly three million Virginians remain unvaccinated, leaving room for COVID-19 to do plenty of damage, epidemiologists say. (Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP)

Nearly three million Virginians remain unvaccinated, leaving room for COVID-19 to do plenty of damage, epidemiologists say. (Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP) (Christopher Dolan/AP)

The state has exceeded 12,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus, a grim milestone in the pandemic representing the immeasurable grief families have felt over the past 1½ years.

Virginia hit the mark last week, according to state health department data, as confirmed cases of COVID-19 swelled to at least 606,000.

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The situation is a seismic shift from where the nation was just two months ago, when President Joe Biden declared America’s “independence” from the disease. Now hospitals are filling up again with severely ill patients, putting strains on staff and resources.

Nearly 3 million Virginians remain unvaccinated.

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A school-related “September surge” could push cases above January’s peak because vaccination rates are still below herd immunity levels, according to projections from the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute.

But under another scenario calculated by the institute, which analyzes what would happen if transmission mirrors the activity from the holidays of last year, cases would not surpass the previous winter peak but stay elevated longer, stretching well into 2022.

How Virginia will experience the pandemic over the next few months is murky, the university scientists say, but that also means the outcome could vary dramatically based on people’s behavior: mask-wearing could make a significant difference in the short-term, and an increase in vaccinations could curb the virus for the long haul.

Some 40.6 million infections have been reported throughout the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 655,000 Americans have died. About 223.4 million people have had confirmed cases worldwide, with 4.6 million deaths.

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As the nation continues to grapple with the disease, Biden unveiled a plan Thursday evening to address the latest surge and stalled vaccination efforts. New rules will mandate all employers with more than 100 workers require vaccinations or tests for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. The 17 million workers at medical facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid will have to be fully vaccinated, too.

The president also is signing an executive order to force vaccinations for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government. That covers several million more workers.

When asked about potential legal challenges, Biden shot back Friday: “Have at it.”

Over the past week, about 11% of standard nasal swab tests came back positive throughout Virginia, and close to 3,400 new cases are being diagnosed each day.

State public health officials say vaccination is the most effective tool at preventing the virus from spreading, but testing is still important. When people know their COVID-19 status, it helps protect those around them and allows epidemiologists to monitor pandemic trends. The health department is increasing testing events throughout Virginia as demand increases.

The number of Virginians hospitalized for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 rose to 2,150, up 13% over the previous week. One in four is in an intensive care unit, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Unvaccinated people have made up the vast majority of the state’s cases and serious illnesses.

Some 4.9 million Virginians, or 58% of the population, were fully inoculated as of Friday — a level that has inched up since the coronavirus’ resurgence. About 65% of Virginians have at least one shot.

Though so-called “breakthrough cases,” infections in fully vaccinated individuals, are happening more often with the more contagious delta variant, they are still considered uncommon. So far there have been 20,134 statewide; 184 were fatal.

During the week of Sept. 4, fully unvaccinated people had COVID-19 infections at a rate 15 times that of fully vaccinated people, according to the state health department.

The White House wants to make booster shots available to all U.S. adults starting Sept. 20. But federal officials must review evidence before giving the plan final approval. Those efforts could be snagged because of a lack of data from Moderna, according to administration officials.

As the delta variant permeated the region, 5,000 more people in Hampton Roads were diagnosed with COVID-19 last week.

There were also 39 more deaths reported: six in Hampton; five each in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach; four each in James City County and Norfolk; three each in Accomack County and Newport News; two each in Portsmouth and York County; and one each in Franklin and Suffolk and Gloucester, Isle of Wight and Mathews counties.

Virginia Beach’s caseload did not top last week’s total but was still the highest in the region, reporting 1,217 new infections.

High caseloads are expected in bigger cities, but some communities with fewer people see greater rates of new cases per capita. For last week, Gloucester County ranked the highest in the region based on population size, at 69 per 100,000 people. By comparison, Virginia Beach had 39 and Norfolk had 36.

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Here’s a look at vaccination rates throughout the region. These figures do not include the 469,000 doses administered to Virginians by the federal government, such as military, because location information has not been provided for them:

  • In Virginia Beach, 66% of adults and 56% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 49% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Norfolk, 51% of adults and 44% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 38% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Newport News, 61% of adults and 50% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 44% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Chesapeake, 64% of adults and 53% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 47% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Portsmouth, 56% of adults and 46% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 39% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Hampton, 61% of adults and 51% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 44% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In James City County, 78% of adults and 66% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 59% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Poquoson, 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, 70% of adults and 58% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 52% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Suffolk, 64% of adults and 52% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 46% of all residents are fully inoculated.
  • In Williamsburg, 56% of adults and 52% of the entire population have at least one dose. About 46% 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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