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COVID-19 case numbers rising again in western Virginia

Health officials say COVID-19 case counts are going up again in western Virginia, as they are in many parts of the country.

The health district that serves the Roanoke region reported 582 new cases over the past week. That's up from 483 new cases the previous week and 421 cases the week before.

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Doctor Cynthia Morrow says she expects the numbers to continue to rise because of holiday gatherings and indoor events. "It’s really disappointing that we’re going in the wrong direction," Morrow said in a briefing with journalists Tuesday. "And I’m sure it’s discouraging to a lot of people."

Morrow says the majority of those new cases and hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people. A large percentage of the cases are in younger people as well. About 20% of the new cases are under the age of 18 and 45% are under the age of 35.

The number of district residents hospitalized due to COVID-19 has remained fairly steady. Thirty-two people were hospitalized as of Tuesday's briefing, down from 38 last week and 36 the week before.

The number of deaths reported in the district has steadily climbed during the month of November, though. 669 district residents have died from complications related to COVID-19. That number was 604 on October 26th.

Morrow encouraged unvaccinated people to get tested before attending Thanksgiving events. If you do have COVID symptoms following a gathering, the first step is to get tested, regardless of vaccination status. "And if you test positive I would strongly recommend that you tell everyone who was at that gathering that you have COVID so they can get tested themselves."

Cases in the NRHD have plateaued, but officials are expecting that to change

COVID-19 case counts remain steady in the New River Health District.

But, district director Noelle Bissell says health officials are expecting that to change with holiday gatherings around the corner – though not quite to the levels seen last winter.

She says she’s heard from people saying they won’t get vaccinated now because there’s not enough time to get full immunity before Thanksgiving and other family gatherings.

“And we would say go ahead and get vaccinated anyway," Bissell stresses. "The shots do start working to build that immunity, so even if you’re not at full immunity, you will start having some immunity and build protection against getting COVID or the flu and then from spreading it to others.” 

Bissell says most of the vaccine doses being administered right now are booster shots.

Rise in reported Flu A cases

And while much of the attention remains on the fight against COVID-19, health officials say this year’s flu season shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Dr. Bissell says officials have started to see a large number of Influenza A cases – especially among college students.

“Flu A does tend to be more severe, and many of our college students have felt worse with the flu than they did with COVID,” she says. 

Because symptoms of the two viruses are similar, Bissell says it’s a good idea to get tested for both if you’re feeling under the weather. And, she stresses people can get a flu shot and COVID vaccination at the same time.