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Health director: "Cautiously optimistic" that Roanoke area is past its omicron-surge peak

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Virginia Dept. of Health
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A graph of new COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District over the past 90 days.

The health director for the Roanoke area says she is "cautiously optimistic" the region is past its omicron-surge peak.

The Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District recorded 3,315 new COVID-19 infections over the past week, according to data from Dr. Cynthia Morrow. Morrow is the district's director. Tuesday's number is down about 25% from the previous week, when the district recorded 4,454 new cases. Morrow said one factor that creates some uncertainty about the data is last week's winter weather and its impact on access to testing.

While the drop in cases is welcome news, the weekly total is still higher than any other surge during the pandemic. It's likely to take some weeks before the region drops out of the "high transmission" designation. Localities experiencing more than 100 new cases over 7 days per 100,000 population are designated as high transmission areas. "Some of our communities are at 1,500 per 100,000," Morrow noted during a call with reporters. "So we are far, far away from substantial transmission. We’re going to be in high transmission for at least a few more weeks. But I’m very hopeful that this is the beginning of a positive trend for us, a downward trend for us."

Morrow reported that hospitalizations have been holding steady over the past week. 142 district residents were hospitalized for complications related to COVID-19, as of Monday.

The district recorded 12 additional deaths in the past week, bringing the total to 760.

Statewide cases, hospitalizations also dropping

At a statewide level, the average daily number of new cases has been dropping since January 17th. The Virginia Department of Health reported 10,699 new cases Tuesday.

The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations has also been dropping. Data from the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association indicated 3,603 hospitalizations Tuesday. That's down from a peak of 3,948 on January 18th and is still higher than during any previous surge.

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Ballad Health, which operates hospitals in the southwest tip of Virginia and northeast Tennessee is still seeing hospitalizations increase. The company reported 406 hospitalized COVID-19 patients Tuesday. Ballad's COVID-19 census had been hovering around the 350 mark for about a week. The number is now also approaching Ballad's record of 413 hospitalizations set in September of 2021.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.