Virginia’s transmission rate for COVID-19 fell dramatically over the last week to 0.894 from 1.027 on Sept. 11.

The transmission rate gives health officials an idea of how pervasive a virus is. Transmission rates above 1.0 indicate that each known case is creating at least one new case. There is a delay in reporting transmission rates as health officials at the Virginia Department of Health work on sorting through data. Transmission rates are also reported for previous dates — Friday’s update was the transmission rate dated Sept. 5 — giving Virginians another delayed reporting figure to factor in when considering how they view the spread of COVID-19.

To allay concerns about delayed reporting — a sticky subject VDH officials have been attempting to explain to the public since the beginning of the pandemic — modelers wrote in the Data Insights Report that users should keep an eye on both reported dates for new cases, hospitalizations and deaths as well as onset dates.

“Our goal is to provide as accurate data as possible, but if we wait too long, it may be too late to act on the information,” modelers wrote. “VDH's COVID-19 Dashboard mostly relies on report date but onset date is a much more useful measure of disease spread. The best thing to do is to take early estimates with a grain of salt.”

Models are designed to adapt to data as it comes in and health officials said there will be some flux in reporting new data, but Virginia is seeing positive trends overall.

The number of cases the commonwealth expects to see by Thanksgiving is down to 205,333 compared to an estimated 208,237 by Thanksgiving last week.

Modelers reported that cases in most of the commonwealth have plateaued and while two areas are still experiencing surges the cause is likely due to students returning to universities. Concentrated clusters of cases involving relatively healthy populations and places to quarantine don’t pose the same threat to the commonwealth that outbreaks in nursing homes had early in the pandemic.

The VDH reported 1,242 new cases, 56 new hospitalizations and 29 new deaths on Friday, bringing statewide totals to 138,702 cases, 10,520 hospitalizations and 2,949 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Total figures include 6,612 probable cases, 75 probable hospitalizations and 194 probable deaths.

The Lord Fairfax Health District reported 12 new cases, no new hospitalizations and no new deaths on Friday, bringing its total to 2,991 cases, 262 hospitalizations and 106 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Total figures include 326 probable cases, one probable hospitalization and 10 probable deaths.

Local cases

Frederick County has had 833 cases, 63 hospitalizations and 11 deaths.

Shenandoah County has had 798 cases, 87 hospitalizations and 56 deaths.

Winchester City has had 481 cases, 35 hospitalizations and four deaths.

Warren County has had 409 cases, 23 hospitalizations and six deaths.

Page County has had 379 cases, 42 hospitalizations and 29 deaths.

Clarke County has had 91 cases, 12 hospitalizations and no deaths.

Regional cases

Harrisonburg has had 2,405 cases, 91 hospitalizations and 34 deaths.

Rockingham County has had 1,340 cases, 110 hospitalizations and 21 deaths.

Schools and Universities

James Madison University reported it had 261 active COVID-19 cases on Friday and 1,140 recovered cases since July 1. JMU’s total case count includes 592 students, staff and faculty who have received COVID-19 test results from the University Health Center and 809 others who have self-reported positive test results to the university.

The health center has conducted 2,421 tests since July 1 and 37 tests on Thursday. Since the health center began testing on July 1 it has had a positivity rate of 24.62%.

Contact Max Thornberry at mthornberry@nvdaily.com