The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke region has continued to increase. And now health officials say hospitalizations are increasing too.
During a briefing with reporters Tuesday morning, the director of the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District reported 196 new COVID-19 cases in the past week. That number was around 80 at the beginning of July. "We haven't seen numbers like this since April," Dr. Cynthia Morrow said.
The number of people hospitalized for complications related to the illness has nearly tripled in July. On July 6th, Morrow reported 5 hospitalizations. That's grown to 14, according to the data reported Tuesday. "Our covid case counts are going up fairly dramatically, although it is important to remember that these numbers are far lower than what we saw in January, February and March," Morrow noted.
Morrow said the increases can't directly be correlated to the spread of the highly-transmissable delta variant because very few case samples are submitted for full genomic sequencing. "But for all practical purposes, we can assume that delta variant is a very significant part of this increase," she noted.
Morrow emphasized that new COVID-19 cases are directly connected to vaccinations. Data from the state Department of Health shows that about 98% of the new cases are in people who are not vaccinated. "We have a tool to prevent this," Morrow noted, "and that's the vaccine." The Roanoke area and much of southwest Virginia has lagged behind the state vaccination average. Roanoke County leads the seven localities that make up the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District with 67.9% of the adult population having received at least one dose. Rural Craig County is at the bottom of the list, with only 44.8% of its adult population getting at least one shot.
Morrow said she does not foresee widespread mask mandates being put back into effect. She did, however, encourage those who are in contact with someone who is immune compromised to wear masks, even if they are fully vaccinated. And she added that masks are absolutely necessary for those who have not been vaccinated.