Virginia continued to see COVID-19 hotspots bounce around the state this week as most regions are seeing their new case totals plateau or recede with a handful growing slowly and two experiencing surges.
The northwest region, which includes the Lord Fairfax Health District, saw a leap in its transmission rate — the expected number of new cases each case will cause — to 1.649, a statewide high. Friday marked the end of a second straight week the statewide transmission rate (1.027) remained above 1.0.
Modelers at the University of Virginia and the Virginia Department of Health wrote that students returning to schools and universities appeared to cause surges in some areas — including the Central Shenandoah Health District where James Madison University is located.
Despite the best efforts by schools and universities to plan around COVID-19, modelers wrote that no one could know exactly what to expect as students flocked back to campus.
“COVID-19 is an unpredictable virus and, to some degree, these impacts are random,” modelers wrote. “Even the best strategies will have leaks the virus can exploit. Luck often plays a larger role than many of us think. Researchers will spend years parsing the data to tease out the role of luck, strategy, and other factors in preventing and containing campus-related outbreaks.”
The surges seen in the Central Shenandoah Health District and the New River Health District appear to be linked to students returning to campus but modelers wrote that they may follow patterns seen previously in Richmond.
In the Richmond Health District, cases among people 30 or younger jumped but didn’t spike, modelers wrote. Richmond saw a short surge that died down — possibly because the increase in testing likely positive cases forced a jump but doesn’t result in long-term growth.
Virginia saw its growth that started in early July following the drop in cases throughout June manifest itself in a younger, more resilient population of Virginians. Those aged 20-29 account for 27,049 (20.7%) COVID-19 cases in Virginia and people aged 30-39 make up the second-largest amount with 23,074 (17.7%) cases.
Hospitalizations have risen and fallen over time but have not returned to the high-water marks of mid-May, and deaths have continued to diminish as well. Friday’s seven-day average for new deaths was seven, near the lowest average Virginia has seen since the beginning of the pandemic — the seven-day average was as low as 6.71 on July 23 and July 28.
The VDH reported 1,115 new cases, 70 new hospitalizations and three new deaths on Friday, bringing the statewide total to 131,640 cases, 10,155 hospitalizations and 2,711 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Total figures include 5,937 probable cases, 70 probable hospitalizations and 133 probable deaths.
The Lord Fairfax Health District reported 11 new cases, one new hospitalization and no new deaths on Friday, bringing its total to 2,905 cases, 257 hospitalizations and 98 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Total figures include 314 probable cases, one probable hospitalization and eight probable deaths.
Frederick County has had 806 cases, 62 hospitalizations and 11 deaths.
Shenandoah County has had 785 cases, 84 hospitalizations and 50 deaths.
Winchester City has had 461 cases, 35 hospitalizations and four deaths.
Warren County has had 400 cases, 23 hospitalizations and six deaths.
Page County has had 367 cases, 41 hospitalizations and 27 deaths.
Clarke County has had 86 cases, 12 hospitalizations and no deaths.
James Madison University reported it has 557 active cases and 662 recovered cases since July 1. On Thursday, the University Health Center conducted 127 COVID-19 detection tests and returned 38 positive results.
Since July 1, the health center has conducted 2,104 COVID-19 tests and returned 514 positive results — giving the university a positivity rate of 24.58%.
The university reported that 705 students, staff and faculty have self-reported positive COVID-19 test results and that the university has 34 isolation/quarantine beds available.