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Encouraging Trend in Roanoke-area COVID Cases, But Still Substantial Activity

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For the first time in several weeks, the Roanoke area saw fewer than 300 new COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the director of the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District, reported 286 new cases over the past week.  That number stood at 345 for the previous week.  "We still have significant COVID-19 activity in our community. It is decreasing.  That is encouraging," Morrow said during a weekly call with reporters Tuesday.  "But the best way for us to assure an ongoing downward is for us to continue to follow our community mitigation strategy."  That means wearing masks, keeping distance and washing hands.

The number of district residents hospitalized for COVID-19 complications did tick up to 37 over the past week. Twelve additional deaths were recorded bringing the district's total to 452.  The number of active outbreaks was steady at nine.

Morrow says the health district expects to get 8,350 vaccine doses in the upcoming week.  That’s about the same as last week.

More Students in Schools, More Teachers Getting Vaccinated

Many school divisions across the state increased their in-person learning options this week.  Dr. Cynthia Morrow said she believes that’s a safe option as long as students are keeping distant and wearing masks.  “I think that we’re in good shape with respect to schools,”  Morrow told reporters Tuesday

She also said more teachers and staff who chose not be vaccinated earlier are stepping up.  Last week, administrators again surveyed their staff for interest in being vaccinated.  As a result, about 500 teachers and staff are signed up for clinics this week.  "It just shows that we are really committed to ensuring any teacher or staff, associated pre-K through 12 who wants to get vaccinated, we will prioritize and make sure that they are so that our kids can stay in class."

Morrow says Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District staff members are doing additional phone and email outreach to people over the age of 65 who expressed interest in being vaccinated but haven’t gotten a shot yet.  She noted there are still thousands of people eligible in Phase 1A or 1B who are still waiting to be vaccinated. 

Morrow expects an expansion to the Phase 1C group of essential employees to happen in early April.