Ballad Health: UK Variant Likely Driving Surge Of Cases in SW Virginia and NE Tennessee
Officials with the hospital system that serves southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee believe the UK COVID-19 variant is driving a surge of cases there.
Ballad Health and a contractor have been conducting wastewater testing across its service region. Doctor Clay Runnells said preliminary results found a significant amount of COVID-19 in wastewater as well as the B.1.1.7 UK variant. "And we currently feel like that B.1.1.7 is driving the surge we’ve been seeing in the region," Runnells said in a news conference Wednesday.
Runnells noted all of the current vaccines are effective against the UK variant, though demand for the vaccines has slowed down dramatically. He said getting more people vaccinated would turn the current surge around.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Ballad’s service area is growing about seven to eight percent each week. The testing positivity rate there of 11.7% is almost twice the statewide average of either Virginia or Tennessee. Hospitalizations for complications related to COVID-19 have also been rising in recent weeks. Ballad reported 137 hospitalized COVID-19 patients Wednesday.
Hospitalizations Up In Western Virginia
A coalition of healthcare providers that serve the health department’s Near Southwest region is reporting a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations. That region includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, Danville, Martinsville and parts of the New River Valley.
The group reported 143 hospitalizations this week, up from 124 last week. The number of patients in need of ICU services also went up slightly, but ventilator use dropped a bit.