Health officials in the Roanoke area are worried about the rising number of COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District reported 26 outbreaks, as of Tuesday morning. Twelve of them are in businesses and seven are in long-term care facilities. There were 18 outbreaks last Tuesday and 12 the week before.
Doctor Cynthia Morrow, the district’s director, attributes the growing number to COVID-fatigue and people letting their guard down about prevention practices. "I think that the most important thing is that people recognize we are in high burden, sustained transmission," Morrow told reporters in a weekly conference call. "We need to be really aggressive about preventing this virus from coming into our homes, our businesses, our schools, ourselves."
Morrow said the district, which covers the Roanoke Valley and parts of the Alleghany Highlands, is averaging about 70 new cases a day. Thirty-nine people in the district were hospitalized for COVID-19 related complications as of Tuesday morning. Fifty-three people have died since the pandemic began.
She also raised concern about COVID-19 statistics that have remained stubbornly high in some parts of southwest Virginia. The Near Southwest region has been stuck in the high burden and high transmission categories. Doctor Morrow said those metrics justify Phase One or Phase Two restrictions, not the current statewide Phase Three. "Based on the numbers, I think we should be ramping down," she said.
The region includes the Roanoke, Lynchburg and Danville areas and parts of the New River Valley.
Data from the department of health is shared with local governments at least twice a week, according to Morrow. "At this point we have not made any specific recommendations beyond that we need to continue to practice what we preach," she said, referring to prevention practices like wearing masks, keeping distance and handwashing.
Morrow told reporters that the governor would consider tightening restrictions if two or more regions show signs of trouble. Right now, though, only the Near Southwest region is on the radar.
In the New River Valley, the spike in cases connected to returning college students is continuing to come down.
Doctor Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, said the decline in Montgomery County is taking longer because of the higher population density of Virginia Tech students.
All K-12 schools in the region are back with some in-person learning. "We’re not seeing evidence of transmission in the schools," Bissell told reporters Tuesday. "In each of these cases, the infection was acquired outside of school, most often in a social setting."
Bissell also noted that some people are getting tired of COVID-related restrictions. But she said it’s still important to follow through with prevention practices like mask-wearing and social distancing.