Virginia saw a leap in COVID-19 cases Thursday, part of a concerning trend that Lord Fairfax Health Director Dr. Colin Greene said he’s seen in 45 out of 50 states as well as some European nations.
The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,331 new cases around the commonwealth on Thursday, including 43 cases in the Lord Fairfax Health District.
The district covers Winchester and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren.
The numbers are concerning, Greene said, because they’re representative of a steady increase he’s seen around the region.
Thursday’s increase follows several weeks in August and September when the district was seeing about 7 to 15 new cases any given day.
Now it’s increased daily to an average of 30 new cases a day, he said.
In the last seven days, the district has reported 222 new cases, including Thursday, which had the highest number of new cases. The lowest, 17 new cases, was reported on Wednesday.
“So it’s kind of doubled in the last couple of weeks,” Greene said.
“That does coincide with several outbreaks that we’ve had,” he said. “We have 12 active outbreaks now.”
Locally, Warren County had the largest rise in new cases on Thursday, with 19 new cases, one hospitalization and one death.
There was no immediate reason for Thursday’s spike in Warren County, Greene said.
Though the county has three outbreaks — one at Heritage Hall, one at Lynn Care and one at a health care facility he didn’t name — he said none of those outbreaks is new enough to account for Thursday’s rise in numbers.
“What’s significant is that there’s a steady increase all over the district,” he said. “We have seen four new outbreaks in the last 10 days.”
Frederick County reported 10 new cases and five hospitalizations on Thursday.
Shenandoah County reported six new cases. Clarke and Page county each reported three new cases, and Winchester reported two.
Greene said the latest outbreaks have occurred in all six area localities. The outbreaks have occurred at three businesses, three first responder groups, three long-term facilities (which alone account for 54 cases and six deaths), a medical facility, a day care center and a jail.
Front Royal Family Practice was closed over the weekend and on Monday after reporting two cases among its physicians, but an office recording said the facility had a doctor on call. Dr. Thomas Ball confirmed on Thursday that the business is open again, that the two staff members with COVID-19 are recovering at home, and that all other staff members tested negative for COVID-19.
Ball said it’s believed one physician was infected at Warren Memorial Hospital. He said the issue with the other physician was that an initial COVID-19 test had come back negative.
“It’s hard on us to close,” Ball said. “It was a worrisome little stretch.”
Asked if Front Royal Family Practice is the medical facility counted among the recent breakouts, Greene said no, though he declined to name private facilities that have had outbreaks.
“The one place we haven’t seen a lot [of cases] is in schools and colleges,” Greene continued.
Educational settings around the area have seen sporadic cases so far, he said, but none considered part of an outbreak.
“That’s not the main source of the increase,” he said.
Though uncertain what specifically has caused the recent uptick in local cases, Greene said a general lack of care is the likely culprit.
Less concerned with super-spreaders, he said he’s wary of people in their daily lives “just being careless.”
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have remained the same over the last several months, he said. Exposure to the coronavirus is considered to happen when a person comes within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. The risk is worse when one or both people are not wearing masks, he said.
Especially in break rooms or lunchrooms at work, he said, “Someone gets sick and everyone gets sick.”
He also discouraged carpools and other close-quarter gatherings among people of different households, unless they’re wearing masks.
“Everybody should be aware the virus is there, it’s an ever-present risk,” Greene said.
With Halloween coming up, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas and other indoor family-related events, he cautioned the public to consider how the virus will spread among people in close-quarters.
“Probably not the year to have a lot of out-of-town family in,” he said.
District-wide, the Virginia Department of Health has recorded 3,556 cases since the pandemic started, including 301 hospitalizations and 121 deaths.
Around Virginia, the Health Department has reported 162,941 cases, with 9,824 considered probable. An increase of 76 hospitalizations brings the total to 11,704, with 102 probable. Seven new deaths bring the state total to 3,388, with 239 of them probable.
Local casesFrederick County has had 1,051 cases (up 10 cases), 74 hospitalizations (up five) and 13 deaths.
Shenandoah County has had 893 cases (up six), 94 hospitalizations and 59 deaths.
Winchester has had 542 cases (up two), 39 hospitalizations and four deaths.
Warren County has had 514 cases (up 19), 35 hospitalizations (up one) and 14 deaths (up one).
Page County has had 442 cases (up three), 47 hospitalizations and 30 deaths.
Clarke County has had 114 cases (up three), 12 hospitalizations and one death.
Harrisonburg has had 2,882 cases (up eight), 96 hospitalizations and 35 deaths.
Rockingham County has had 1,660 cases (up 11), 123 hospitalizations (up one) and 22 deaths.