COVID-19 cases are again increasing in the Roanoke region. Meanwhile, spikes connected to universities in the New River Valley have come down.
The average number of daily new cases, outbreaks and hospitalizations in the Roanoke region are all higher than they were a week ago, according to Doctor Molly O’Dell with the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District. There were 140 active cases in the district as of Tuesday morning, up from 94 the week before. A case is considered activing when a patient is within the ten day isolation period. Six people died from complications related to the illness over the past week. O'Dell said two additional deaths were identified from a reconciliation of death certificates.
She told reporters Tuesday that many people have relaxed their precautions. "So we’re seeing weddings, funerals, and ill-advised social gatherings as real sources of spread."
O’Dell also noted an increase in the number of outbreaks at businesses. She said some of those businesses admitted they relaxed their prevention practices and others were not carrying out the whole range of screening activities for employees. “Everybody has been doing something, but not necessarily all things consistently.” O'Dell said it's important that businesses create protocols to screen workers before they come into the business, enforce the wearing of face coverings indoors and carry out CDC-approved cleaning processes.
The increase in hospitalizations is concerning to health officials. O'Dell said most, though not all, of the 31 people hospitalized on Tuesday are over the age of 55. "The disease is still real," she added.
In the New River Valley, the number of COVID-19 cases related to the area’s universities has been coming down.
The director of the New River Health District, Doctor Noelle Bissell, said Tuesday that new cases in Radford have dropped to about where they were before Radford University students returned in late August. In Montgomery County, cases have not quite returned to where they were before Virginia Tech students returned, but Bissell says they’re headed that way. "We are finding that the college students did spread COVID-19 in their social circles but they didn’t spread it in the greater community," Bissell said. "We also find that we do have spread within the community from community events."
There have been small numbers of cases at businesses and other settings, Bissell said. But she did not categorize them as outbreaks and said the cases were not necessarily the result of a business not carrying out prevention measures.
Bissell said while the trends are encouraging, both the university community and the broader population cannot get complacent about prevention measures. "The virus isn't just going to go away," she added.
Both O'Dell and Bissell noted Tuesday that flu cases have now been confirmed in both the New River and Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District. They encouraged the public to get a flu vaccination. Vaccination clinics run by the health department have already begun and vaccine is widely available at doctors offices and pharmacy clinics.