Health Director: COVID-19 Metrics Show Stronger Action is Needed in Southwest Virginia

Nov 4, 2020

COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke region have gone up dramatically over the past two weeks.

Health officials say the data shows people need to take stronger action to get the virus under control.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke City Alleghany Health District just keeps growing.  It hit 543 Wednesday morning, according to Dr. Cynthia Morrow.  That's about 200 more than the week earlier.  Hospitalizations and outbreaks have remained high as well.  "We are at high risk right now and at these metrics, we should be operating at Phase One, Phase Two practice," Morrow told a weekly call with reporters.

Credit (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Morrow said there are ongoing conversations at the state level about the situation in southwest Virginia.  But for now it’s important for people to take action on their own: Avoid indoor gatherings with people outside your immediate household.  If you do test positive, let your close contacts know right away.  And if you’ve had significant contact with someone who’s tested positive, don’t wait.  "Stay home and monitor your health," Morrow advised. "Get tested, seek medical attention if you are concerned about your health.  Please keep your distance from others, even within your own house if that’s at all possible." Morrow says if you get a phone call from a number you don’t recognize, answer it because it could be a health department contact tracer.

A graphic of COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District

75 residents of the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District were hospitalized as of Monday, Morrow reported.  That's on par with the previous week's record high of 78.  The majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 complications are in their 60's and 70's, Morrow said. 24 additional deaths were reported over the past week, bringing the district's total to 84.  The majority of those people were in their 70's and 80's and were connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities.  Morrow noted that some of the reported deaths may have occurred a couple of weeks earlier but were just now being confirmed into the state's database.

Concern About Schools and Sports

The growth of COVID-19 in much of southwest Virginia has put schools in the high risk category.

Health officials have been advising superintendents about the situation. Dr. Cynthia Morrow says it’s just not safe to have really close contact. "They asked us how we felt about close contact sports such as wrestling, even basketball.   And we have to say we would applaud any effort that they have to reduce transmission by not having those sporting events."

Last week, the governor's office and the Virginia High School League cleared the way for high school sports to resume in December with limits on attendance and strict requirements for masks.

Hospital Resources Stretched in Southwest Virginia

The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 continues to stress medical resources in the southwest corner of the state.

Ballad Health, which operates hospitals in parts of southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee, said Wednesday that 91% of its Intensive Care Unit beds are occupied.

More than 200 of its employees are in quarantine, either because they tested positive themselves or were exposed to someone with COVID-19.