COVID roundup: Cases lower, vaccinations rate improves in Va.
One year after U.S. declared public health emergency, nation surpasses 27M cases
A year after the United States declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 27 million as of Monday, Feb. 8. Here in Virginia, the number of new cases and deaths declined over the past week, although two highly contagious variant strains of the coronavirus have been identified in the state.
After a rough start, Virginia also is improving its rate of vaccine administration; as of Monday, 1.1 million people have received at least one of the two shots required for full inoculation out of 1.58 million vaccine doses the state has received, a rate of 69.9%, according to the Virginia Department of Health. As of Monday, the state was ranked ninth in the nation for its percentage of doses administered, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by Becker’s Hospital Review. Virginia gave an average of 36,647 shots per day over the past seven days, VDH reported, and 10.5% of the state’s population have now received at least one shot.
With race and ethnicity information available for only 66.5% of people who have received shots in the state, the vast majority of shots were received by white, non-Hispanic people — 71.4% as of Monday, according to VDH. Women continue to receive about two-thirds of the doses, and the number of recipients by age is spread broadly, with people age 50 to 59 as the top age group.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that the South African variant of the virus — considered highly contagious and more resistant to vaccines — has been recorded in Virginia, which is the third state in the country to identify the strain, after South Carolina and Maryland. According to VDH, an adult in Eastern Virginia had the variant form, which was identified by private laboratory Labcorp on Thursday.
Only six cases of the South African variant had been recorded in the nation as of the CDC’s last update Sunday, but the strain has quickly spread in South Africa and other countries. Virginia also has recorded four cases of the United Kingdom virus strain, which is spreading swiftly across the country. According to a new study, the strain is doubling its prevalence in the U.S. every week and a half.
Over the past week, Virginia recorded 23,185 new COVID-19 cases and 346 deaths, at a 10.2% positivity rate, down more than one percentage point from the previous week, according to VDH. The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association reported 2,285 patients hospitalized with COVID or with tests pending, as of Monday. ICU occupancy was at 51%, including surge beds, and 34% of all ventilators are in use for COVID patients and non-virus patients. The state has now reported 530,825 COVID cases and 6,820 deaths since last March.
Nationally, Democrats prepare to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package — although a target on $1,400 payments per person is now under discussion, with some lawmakers pushing for the cap on eligibility to be lowered to $50,000 per individual or $100,000 per couple, meaning that people who earned more than that amount in 2019 or 2020 would not receive a third stimulus check. The left wing of the party has voiced opposition to the limit, noting it is partly based on pre-pandemic income. There also is a $3,000-per-child benefit under consideration, and parents would receive $1,400 more for each child in the family.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson has applied for emergency approval of its one-shot vaccine from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which is expected to make a decision in coming weeks. If approved, the vaccine would be the third approved in the U.S. and the only one that requires only one dose. Pfizer Inc. and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses.
As of Feb. 4, many of the state’s health districts have positivity rates around 10%. The state’s highest rates and/or sharpest one-week spikes are in the following districts:
- Chesapeake — 20.9%, up from 19.5% on Jan. 28
- Portsmouth — 19.9%, up from 19.3%
- Hampton — 19.5%, up from 18.0%
- Eastern Shore — 16.2%, up from 11.6%
- Pittsylvania-Danville — 15.3%, down from 17.9%
- Rappahannock (city of Fredericksburg and Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties) — 15.2%, down from 15.8%
- Virginia Beach — 15.9%, down from 16.2%
- Norfolk — 14.6%, down from 15.7%
- Western Tidewater (cities of Franklin and Suffolk and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties) — 14.3%, down from 14.4%
- West Piedmont (Franklin, Henry and Patrick counties and the city of Martinsville) — 13.5%, down from 18.3%
- Peninsula (Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City and York counties) — 13.0%, down from 15.0%
- Crater (Emporia, Hopewell, Petersburg and the counties of Dinwiddie, Greensville, Prince George, Surry and Sussex) — 12.9%, down from 13.3%
- Three Rivers (Essex, Gloucester, King and Queen, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northumberland and Westmoreland counties) — 12.3%, up from 12.1%
- Central Virginia (Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell counties and Lynchburg) — 11.8%, down from 15.8%
- Piedmont (Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties) — 11.8%, down from 13.5%
- Loudoun — 11.7%, down from 12.0%
- Chesterfield — 11.6%, down from 12.6%
Globally, there are 106.2 million reported COVID-19 cases and 2,318,763 confirmed deaths, as of Feb. 8. The United States, which has the most confirmed cases and deaths worldwide, has seen 27 million confirmed cases so far, with 463,483 deaths attributed to the coronavirus since February 2020.