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Three years into COVID-19, cases and hospitalizations are declining again

Three years ago, Virginia was confirming its first cases of COVID-19.

Doctor Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District, said a lot has changed since those early days of the pandemic. "We have a lot more tools available to us to combat this ever-present virus, including our vaccines, our antivirals, our monoclonal antibodies. There are so many more tools that have really changed the entire perspective," Morrow explained during a call with reporters Tuesday.

Weekly case numbers are trending down again. And hospitalization numbers in the Roanoke area are at the lowest level since May of last year. Morrow also said she doesn’t see any new variants looming on the horizon right now.

The peaks and valleys of Virginia's COVID-19 case counts
Va. Dept. of Health
The peaks and valleys of Virginia's COVID-19 case counts

While the outlook may be good now, it's followed a great deal of loss in the community. In the Roanoke area alone, 1,159 people have died from complications related to the virus.

There have also been some positive lessons, Morrow explained, like better cooperation and communication in public health. "There have been a lot of things we weren’t able to do during the pandemic. But our partnerships that we have grown over the past three years of the pandemic have put us in a much better position to respond to other threats to the public’s health."

Morrow said reporting systems and information sharing have improved tremendously since before the pandemic began. And the health department can now apply some of those lessons and solutions to other health issues, as well as continuing to prepare for future threats.

And if some threat materializes, Morrow said she hopes leaders will remember the communications shortfalls of this pandemic. "It’s really important at the federal level, at the state level, at the regional level, at the local level, to acknowledge what we don’t know. And I think it’s important for the public to be patient. We have to let the data drive our decisions."

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.