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With cases numbers hitting new records in Roanoke area, health director hopes we are near the peak

RCAHD 1.18
Virginia Department of Health
A graph of daily new cases in the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District over the past 90 days.

The Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District, along with other parts of southwest Virginia, continues to see record numbers of COVID-19 cases.

The district recorded 4,454 new cases over the past week, according to the district's health director Dr. Cynthia Morrow. That's up from 3,786 the week before.

Nevertheless, Morrow told reporters Tuesday that she hopes the district is at or near the peak of the omicron-variant surge. "We know that across the country, there are some states are starting to trend down. We know that within Virginia there are some localities that are starting to trend down," Morrow noted. "Southwest has not." Morrow said the omicron-variant surge continues to have a disproportionate impact in areas with lower vaccination rates, like southwest Virginia.

Morrow said the weekly case total is probably an undercount because of weather-related testing cancellations and limitations over the past few days. The district has now logged 51,383 cases since the pandemic began. The district recorded seven additional deaths over the past week, bringing its total to 748. Hospitalization data was not yet available due to Monday's holiday.

Demand for testing continues to outpace supply, Morrow said. Staffing for testing events also continues to be a challenge and labs that process the tests are at capacity.

The district hopes to have a community testing center open at Roanoke's Valley View Mall by the end of the week. It will be located in the parking lot near the current community vaccination center in the former Sears store. When operational, Morrow says it will be able to conduct up to 350 tests per week. Appointments will be required.

A community testing center will open at the Chesterfield Fairgrounds on Wednesday.

NRHD Director: District likely to reach peak of current surge this week

Like other parts of the state, there appears to be some good news for the New River Health District amidst the current surge of COVID-19.

Director Noelle Bissell expects the district’s omicron-related peak to come this week.

“Generally these curves – the way they go up is the way they come down," she explains. "So when they go up pretty steeply – as the omicron surge has – they should come down pretty sharply as well.”

However, hospitalizations tend to lag behind case counts. And Bissell says area hospitals continue to see an elevated number of COVID patients.

She adds the unvaccinated remain the most at-risk population for serious complications from the virus.