Despite Recommendations Against Travel & Gatherings, Health Director Expects Post-Holiday Surge

Nov 24, 2020

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke area continues to jump. And health officials fear it will get even higher in the weeks after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Cynthia Morrow with the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District reported 1,274 active cases as of Tuesday morning, up from 824 last week. An active case is defined as a patient that is in the 10 day isolation period after a positive test.

Credit CDC

Morrow said she expects dramatic increases in cases following Thanksgiving, especially if people don’t follow health recommendations against travel and gatherings with people outside your immediate household.  "If people do the right thing, we may not see this trajectory that we’re all expecting," Morrow said in a weekly call with reporters Tuesday.  "But for reasons I will never understand, a lot of people don’t seem to want to follow the guidelines which we know are effective."

Health officials have recommended against traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday and against gathering with people outside your immediate household. Morrow said if you are going to travel in the next few days, assume everyone you encounter may be contagious.  Wear a mask, keep your distance and try to avoid crowded areas.  "If you are sick, do not travel.  No matter how important it may feel to you, it’s not worth it," Morrow said.  "Stay home."

The number of hospitalizations in the district that serves the Roanoke Valley and parts of the Alleghany Highlands remained steady at 74. The number of outbreaks dropped a bit and are predominately affecting long term care facilities and congregate living settings.  Nine additional deaths were confirmed over the past week, bringing the district's total to 135.

Hospitalizations Ease in SW Virginia and NE Tennessee

The number of people hospitalized in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee because of COVID-19 has eased a bit.  But officials with Ballad Health say the number of cases continues to grow higher in its service area.

Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift says a post-Thanksgiving surge could be devastating.  "If we experience a surge, like we’ve experienced, after the holiday, we’re starting at a much higher baseline," Swift noted in a Tuesday news confernece.  "We very quickly get to that catastrophic number that we’ve been talking about."

Ballad reported 211 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, as of Tuesday morning. That’s down from 253 last week.  The hospital system says about 91% of its beds are currently in use. About 21% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are in the Intensive Care Unit.

The positivity rate in Ballad’s service area is 18%.   225 Ballad employees are currently in isolation or quarantined.