Weekly COVID-19 update: New River Valley, Roanoke area health districts peak as infection pace slows | Local News

Linda Rider

Virginia reported 73,878 new COVID-19 infections over the past week, bringing the cumulative total during the pandemic to 1,525,591, the Virginia Department of Health reported Friday.

The infection pace has begun to slow across the state since an all-time peak in coronavirus cases a few weeks ago — fueled by the highly-transmissible omicron variant.

New River Health District Director Dr. Noelle Bissell said her district has hit its peak as new infections have decreased. She said she expects to see a significant decline in cases next week after observing the way surges and declines have worked elsewhere in the world.

“I do think there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Bissell said. “Omicron is circling everywhere and it is going to run its course. I think it will push us to that next stage.”

Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District Director Cynthia Morrow said she is “cautiously optimistic” that her district hit its peak last week. But she also said the weather may have limited access to testing, which could have lowered the number of confirmed infections.

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Although cases are starting to slow and infections have proven to be milder than previous variants, hospitals are still strained across the state.

Carilion Clinic, Centra Health, LewisGale Regional Health System, the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Sovah Health released a joint public service announcement Tuesday. The health systems urged people to continue to social distance, wear masks, wash their hands and receive a vaccine.

“We’re treating more hospitalized COVID-19 patients than we ever have — the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated,” the statement read. “In addition to treating preventable illness, this takes beds and resources away from other sick patients who desperately need that scarce resource.”

Virginia’s near southwest region, which includes hospitals from Lynchburg to the Roanoke Valley, had 517 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Friday, including 110 in intensive care. Last Friday, there had been 535 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the region, including 109 in ICUs.

The state reported 640 more hospitalizations over the past seven days, increasing the total number of people hospitalized during the pandemic to 47,546, although the VDH website notes that hospitalizations are underrepresented.

Virginia reported 275 new virus-related deaths over the past seven days, for a total of 16,127 since the start of the pandemic.

As of Friday, 78.8% of Virginia’s adult population had been fully vaccinated.

Everyone aged 5 or older has been approved to receive a vaccine, which are available at the community vaccination center in the former Sears store at Valley View Mall, located at 4812 Valley View Blvd. People can make appointments at vaccinate.virgina.gov or by calling 877-829-4682. Walk-ins are also open for adults and children.

The health department opened a community testing center at Valley View Mall. Tests are administered by appointment only and can be scheduled at vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.

Morrow said the demand for testing has started to decline, so the center has plenty of tests available and typically no wait.

The Roanoke Times contributed to this report.

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