WOODSTOCK — The omicron coronavirus variant has caused a rapid rise in positive COVID-19 cases, but Dr. Colin Greene, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said the rise has been shown to be followed by a rapid decline.

During a Tuesday presentation to the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, Greene said data from South Africa and the United Kingdom shows that omicron results in more positive cases but a lower death rate than previous variants. 

On Saturday, the Lord Fairfax Health District recorded a record-high 880 positive cases in one day. Shenandoah County also recently set a new high with 140 cases in one day.

“It’s just dwarfed all other case counts,” Greene said. “As far as the number of new cases, omicron has done things we’ve never seen before.”

Those new cases have put the region’s hospitals at full or nearly full capacity.

But the good news, Greene said, is the low number of deaths.

“We saw quite a few (deaths) from delta back here in October, but those numbers have trailed off,” he said. “As far as omicron, we haven’t seen a lot of deaths thus far. But it’s still early.”

Greene said data from South Africa, where the omicron variant was first reported, shows a “rapid drop” after an initial “rapid rise.” He added that South Africa’s population is about 25% vaccinated.

The U.K. saw a similar trend with a rapid decline following a significant rise, but its population is mostly vaccinated and saw fewer deaths than South Africa, Greene said.

Greene said America should expect similar results.

In Virginia, Greene said the largest case increases are in cities and suburbs.

With that, he recommended that people decrease their time spent with large groups.

“We saw the most rise in cases where folks are packed close together,” Greene said.

He said omicron is seemingly more contagious, which results in more positive cases.

“We can expect a lot of people are going to catch this, and population and crowding may be a factor,” Greene said. “Fortunately, this disease appears milder, with a lot fewer deaths per case count, particularly in a vaccinated population.”

Greene said those who are vaccinated and boosted are “much, much less likely to die” or end up in the hospital.

Greene said most of the region’s residents who are hospitalized are unvaccinated.

With changes to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, vaccinated individual who test positive should quarantine for five days and then wear a mask for five days after that, according to Greene. That’s because you’re less likely to pass the virus on after five days, he added.

Someone who follows those rules doesn't need to retest to return to work or school, Greene said.

Someone who is fully vaccinated or boosted and is exposed to covid, but does not show symptoms, does not need to quarantine, Greene said. Though he did recommend wearing a mask for 10 days after the exposure.

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com

(1) comment

Ron G

Hope the unvaccinated don't cost a person with other serious health problems a bed and treatment.

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