Weeks of sustained improvement suppressing COVID-19 has not, and will not, be enough to dampen some measures of the virus for some local areas.
The Virginia Department of Health’s dashboard breaking down the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in each of the commonwealth’s counties has been a resource for citizens keeping track of how COVID-19 is spreading throughout the state. Different iterations of the page have come and gone during the pandemic but as time has worn on the site has become more user-friendly and packed with easy-to-understand data.
However, with so much data flowing in there can still be items that are difficult to contextualize.
Shenandoah County has had an out-sized number of deaths (43) for its size. As a result, it ranks as No. 4 in the state for deaths per capita (98.9).
Shenandoah County isn’t the only area in the Lord Fairfax Health District that, at first glance, appears to be a deadly vector for COVID-19. Page County has the third-highest deaths per capita (100.3) after it has reported a total of 24 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
On Thursday, Dr. Colin Greene said that it is important to remember that the information on the VDH dashboard is cumulative of everything that has happened since March. If areas with small populations have one bad event, they are going to look like they are in bad shape for the rest of the pandemic, he said.
“If you have a bad event that makes you a dark color on this map, you never get rid of it,” Greene said. “It really doesn’t say a whole lot about what’s going on in the community at this moment.”
The state’s worst region considering deaths per capita — by a large margin — is Northampton, which has had a moderate 29 deaths but a rate of 247.1 deaths per 100,000 population.
Large population centers, such as Fairfax County, will not see their rates affected the same way as smaller regions. Fairfax has reported it has had 527 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic but its large population keeps its rate of deaths per 100,000 to 45.8.
Greene said that almost all of Page County’s deaths can be traced back to a single event — an outbreak at a nursing home — that accounts for all but one or two of the county’s deaths.
Likewise, Shenandoah County’s deaths were clustered in mid-May and early June.
Greene said the Northwest Region — which includes the Lord Fairfax Health District — is ranking as one of the best-case scenarios in the state.
On Thursday, the district reported four new cases, no new hospitalizations and one new death, bringing its total to 2,517 cases, 219 hospitalizations and 86 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Total figures include 289 probable cases, one probable hospitalization and seven probable deaths.
The district’s new cases have come in waves but have remained relatively low since July. Greene said people should expect to see some upticks in new cases when schools open again but if people are consistent about wearing masks, keeping their distance and washing their hands then the case growth should be minimal.
Shenandoah County reported it has had 689 cases, 71 hospitalizations and 43 deaths.
Frederick County reported it has had 675 cases, 51 hospitalizations and 9 deaths.
Winchester City reported it has had 396 cases, 31 hospitalizations and four deaths.
Warren County reported it has had 353 cases, 22 hospitalizations and six deaths.
Page County reported it has had 335 cases, 37 hospitalizations and 24 deaths.
Clarke County reported it has had 69 cases, seven hospitalizations and no deaths.