COVID-19 Vaccine Offers a bit of Good News Amid High Number of Cases in Roanoke Region

Nov 10, 2020

The number of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to hit new highs in the Roanoke City Alleghany Health District.

The district’s health director, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, reported 671 active cases Tuesday, 128 more than in last week’s report.  86 residents of the district are hospitalized, up from 75 week ago.  The average age of those patients is 73, Morrow said.  Hospitals continue to run at about 86% capacity in the health department’s Near Southwest region, which includes Lynchburg, Martinsville, Danville and the New River and Roanoke Valleys.

Credit CDC

Morrow reported 34 active outbreaks, one less than the week before.  More than half of those outbreaks are in long term care and congregate living facilities.  Three outbreaks involve public schools.

Twelve additional deaths were reported over the past week, bringing the district’s total to 96.

The governor and local governments have not moved to increase restrictions on activities. To keep it that way, Morrow says individuals need to take more care in wearing masks, keeping distance and staying home when sick. “The more that we can do, the less likely it is for there to be more restrictions.  Because we know when we do the right things, it works.  Transmission can do down.”

Health officials are concerned that travel and events around the Thanksgiving holiday could cause a spike in cases and not just in southwest Virginia.  “We are such a hot zone right now that if we travel outside of our area, we are potentially bringing that disease to areas that may not have the same risk.”  Morrow said anytime people from different areas intermingle, either for work or socially, the risk increases.  Morrow says anyone considering traveling for the holiday should quarantine for two weeks and consider getting tested before leaving.

Encouraging Vaccine News

Health officials say this week’s news about a COVID-19 vaccine is encouraging.  But they also say it will be months before it’s likely available to the general public.

Doctor Cynthia Morrow with the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District says local health departments and the state Department of Health are making plans to get a vaccine deployed.  “We are certainly hopeful that we will have vaccine delivery somewhere around the end of December into January, but of course we don’t know that for sure,” Morrow said. 

During a briefing Tuesday afternoon in Richmond, the state’s health commissioner echoed that sentiment. Dr. Norm Oliver said the state is ready to begin administering the vaccine as soon as it is received.  The process of vaccinating millions of people, though, will take months.

New River Valley Cases Level Off

Health officials in the New River Valley are hopeful that an increase in COVID-19 cases there has leveled off.

An update Tuesday from the New River Health District said the increase that began in mid-October seems to have dropped off a bit over the past week.  That uptick was caused by travel, community social gatherings and outbreaks at workplaces and nursing homes.

The district’s health director, Dr. Noelle Bissell, reported 13 active outbreaks Tuesday.  None of them are in long term care and congregate living facilities.  Officials say COVID-19 cases at the region’s two major universities have been stable