Virginia saw a new high in daily COVID-19 cases Saturday, adding 5,798 cases Saturday for a weekend total of 10,939.
The commonwealth now has 398,856 cases, 69,671 of them probable, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s online dashboard at vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.
The VDH expects cases around Virginia to keep rising over the next few weeks but also sees relief in greater access to vaccinations starting this week.
“Finally there is hope and light at the end of a very long tunnel,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a Friday live-streamed video call with immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, other health-care professionals and clergy from around Virginia.
The virtual event was co-sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the Office of Health Equity at the Virginia Department of Health in collaboration with faith leaders from the “Facts & Faith Fridays” group.
Calling the novel coronavirus the worst health crisis the world has seen in 100 years, Fauci on Friday said the pandemic has infected close to 90 million people worldwide.
“We are the worst-hit country in the world with over 20 million cases and close to 360,000 deaths,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Worse, he said, is that people are indoors more during the winter and presently coming off a holiday season of increased traveling and socializing.
“Virtually every day another record is broken,” he said.
Offering assurances to those skeptical of getting the vaccine or concerned about the speed at which it was approved and released, Fauci said it’s been through an independent vetting process that he trusts.
Though the Federal Drug Administration makes the final decision in approving a vaccine for public use in the U.S., he said the Data and Safety Monitoring Board is independent of any government or drug company.
Career scientists, not politicians, together with the independent advisory committee are making that recommendation, he said.
“The process was both independent and transparent, and that’s the reason you need to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.
Having received the vaccine himself, he said he experienced achiness at the vaccination site starting about six to 10 hours later and lasting about 24 to 36 hours. He expects similar symptoms when receiving his booster shot.
Some people experience mild flu-like symptoms, though he said the incidence of severe side effects is very rare and almost exclusively in people with a history of strong allergic reactions. He cautioned those people to talk with their health-care provider about any concerns.
Addressing the incidence of mutant strains of COVID-19 appearing around the world in recent days, he said health officials are keeping an eye on the situation.
Scientists have so far determined that the antibodies induced by the existing vaccine are still “very effective against the mutant strain,” Fauci said.
Plus, he said, any necessary updates can be added to future COVID vaccine doses.
“We’re going to continue to follow that to make sure that it stays that way,” he said.
On Sunday, the VDH was reporting 165,198 people around Virginia had at least one vaccine dose, an increase of 16,289 from Friday’s count. Nearly twice as many people have been fully vaccinated, with the website reporting a total of 12,747 vaccinations as of Sunday.
Locally, Frederick County is reporting 1,633 vaccinations so far, Winchester 2,000, Clarke County 401, Warren County 627, Shenandoah County 1,013 and Page County 320.
The Lord Fairfax Health District added 164 cases Saturday and 98 Sunday, with a weekend total of 262 cases, five hospitalizations and six deaths.
During the pandemic, it has recorded 11,965 cases, 548 hospitalizations and 204 deaths.
Shenandoah County Public Schools announced on Friday that Central High School will be on a virtual model through at least Jan. 15. As of Sunday, the school division was reporting two students and two staff members with active cases at Central.
Shenandoah schools have been on a hybrid learning model this school year, except as schools have been on one- or two-week virtual models to address staffing shortages during the pandemic.
Other area school districts, as of Sunday, did not report any closures.
Virginia’s seven-day average for daily new cases is 5,013, up from 4,994 on Saturday.
Adding 177 hospitalizations and 71 deaths over the weekend, the commonwealth has 19,095 hospitalizations (699 probable) and 5,383 deaths (634 probable.)
The health district’s seven-day average is 153, down from 158 on Saturday.
Virginia’s seven-day positivity rate for PCR tests rose 0.1% to 16.8%, and the district’s rose 0.2% to 15.8%.
The VDH has reported 4,588,152 statewide PCR testing encounters, and the district has reported 133,616.
There were no new local outbreaks reported over the weekend. Outbreak-associated cases rose by 14 for a total of 1,969. The district reported 16 new cases among health-care workers to reach 849.
Virginia saw 26 new outbreaks for a total of 2,057 during the pandemic. Outbreak-associated cases rose by 691 for a total of 48,467, and the VDH reported 300 new cases among health-care workers to reach 48,467.
Clarke County has had 448 cases (up 11), 21 hospitalizations and six deaths (up one)
Frederick County has had 4,340 cases (up 93), 152 hospitalizations (up two) and 35 deaths (up two)
Page County has had 1,219 cases (up 37), 77 hospitalizations and 34 deaths
Shenandoah County has had 2,590 cases (up 71), 149 hospitalizations (up two) and 76 deaths (up one)
Warren County has had 1,548 (up 20) cases, 70 hospitalizations and 36 deaths (up one)
Winchester has had 1,820 cases (up 30), 79 hospitalizations (up one) and 17 deaths (up one)
Regional casesHarrisonburg has reported 4,783 cases (up 132), 131 hospitalizations (up one) and 47 deaths
Rockingham County has reported 4,582 cases (up 183), 237 hospitalizations (up five) and 48 deaths