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Serious illness from Covid-19 plateaus in Virginia

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Across the state, serious illness due to COVID-19 plateaued over the summer.

For instance, at VCU in Richmond the number of people hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 has remained steady for the past several weeks. The number of people in the ICU being treated for the virus has declined.

“We seem to have plateaued since about the beginning of the summer,” says VCU epidemiologist Michelle Doll. “And we have been stable throughout the summer at essentially the same census from day to day.”

That plateau is a trend hospitals around Virginia are experiencing. Brooke Rossheim of the Virginia Department of Health says across the state the 7-day average number of people hospitalized for COVID has been between about 550 and 700.

“One of the reasons that I think contributes to the plateau is that we’re seeing continued vaccination, which is great,” says Rossheim. “I think another thing is… with omicron… we know these are contagious variants and so obviously people are getting COVID and they’re getting some degree of natural immunity.”

Find where you can get vaccinated here.

Both doctors re-iterated that vaccinations are still the most important way to prevent serious illness. About 86-percent of all Virginians have received at least one dose. New booster vaccines that specifically target an Omicron subvariant of COVID-19 are now widely available in Virginia. People can access them for free at local pharmacies or through their health department.

“This is our best tool in the toolbox against covid,” says Rossheim. “Vaccination prevents serious illness, it prevents hospitalization, it prevents death.” 

Rossheim adds that for people who have not been vaccinated at all, it is not too late to begin.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief. She's covered policy and politics from the state capital since 2016. She was a 2020-2021 recipient of the Fulbright Young Journalist Award. She spent a year in Munich, Germany researching memory, justice, and how a society can collectively confront its sins. Her Virginia-based coverage of home healthcare workers, voting rights, and Richmond’s Slave Trail have won national news awards.