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Surge in COVID-19 cases continues

COVID-19 numbers continued to rise in Gloucester over the past week, although not as sharply as the previous week, when an increase of nearly 100 cases was driven by an outbreak in a long-term care facility.

Gloucester added 43 new cases from Wednesday to Wednesday, bringing the total number to 564 for the county since the pandemic began. The county also recorded two additional deaths over the past week, for a total of five Gloucester residents who have died from the virus. One additional person was hospitalized, for a total of 22 thus far.

Mathews saw an increase of 11 cases over the week, for a total of 174, and Middlesex added 13 new cases, increasing the total to 186. There were no new hospitalizations or deaths in either county, with Mathews at 13 and one, respectively, and Middlesex at 10 and 11.

Physician’s warning

Dr. Richard Williams, director of the Three Rivers Health District, said that a total of 49 cases and three deaths recorded for Gloucester during the past two weeks took place among patients and staff at Walter Reed Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center. He added that he believes that outbreak is under control.

He cautioned that things are going to get even worse in the health district over the next three or four weeks because of the holiday.

In his weekly report, Williams said that high transmission levels make it imperative to follow guidelines for public safety.

“Your life and the lives of your family and friends may depend on your behavior,” he said.

Williams cautioned residents not to spend time in a confined space with people outside their household. “Do not participate in group lunches; do not engage in close conversations with others inside or outside,” he said.

People should not spend extended time in indoor spaces such as stores, even if most or all people are wearing masks, said Williams. Shop quickly, stay six feet away from others, and do all activities remotely if possible.

The Three Rivers Health District as a whole recorded 190 new cases during the past week, for a total of 3,132 since March, along with 12 hospitalizations, for a total of 184, and three deaths, for a total of 50.

Statewide, there have been 267,128 cases recorded since the pandemic began, with 24,648 recorded during the past week—a sharp increase from the week before. Since last Wednesday, 709 Virginians have been hospitalized for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 15,592 since March, while 168 people have died, for a total of 4,281.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported that there were 2,035 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals across the state on Wednesday morning, with 436 of those people in the intensive care unit and 200 of them on ventilators.

There were 3,271 hospital beds available across Virginia on Wednesday morning, with an additional 3,695 beds available for surge conditions. Intensive care units were at 78 percent occupancy for their normal beds, but that percentage dropped to 53 percent when 873 surge ICU beds were added. Thirty percent of ventilators statewide were in use on Wednesday morning.

Secretary of Health and Human Services

Virginia Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Vanessa Walker Harris said in a recent telephone interview that COVID-19 is surging through nearly every county in Virginia—thousands more than in the spring—triggering Gov. Ralph Northam to place new restrictions on gatherings and mask wearing for children.

The surge is happening primarily because of parties, celebrations, and other get-togethers held indoors because of the return of colder weather, said Walker Harris.

“It’s related to people getting together with friends and family members who are not part of their household,” she said. “We are tired of the pandemic, and we want to be with friends and family.”

In spite of the longing to be with loved ones, the safest way for people to protect themselves and the people they care about is to stay at home and not get together with them, said Walker Harris. She said she connected with her family in Ohio via Zoom for Thanksgiving instead of going home, and she won’t be joining them for Christmas this year either.

“We’re asking Virginians to do the same thing,” she said. “Have virtual gatherings.”

For those who feel compelled to go against the advice of healthcare officials and gather together anyway, Walker Harris said that keeping gatherings small is a priority. Any meals should be eaten in an open area, but if they’re served inside, a window should be kept open. When people aren’t eating and drinking, they should be wearing their masks at all times, said Walker Harris, and they should maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others.

Walker Harris said her own brother and sister-in-law had been exposed to COVID-19, and when they called to ask her about quarantine, she walked them through the CDC guidelines. If you think you’ve been exposed to someone with the virus, isolate yourself at home, away from other people, for 14 days. If you have symptoms—chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell—get tested and isolate yourself from others for 14 days. According to the CDC, isolation and quarantine times may be reduced under certain circumstances.

To avoid contracting the virus, wear a mask when around other people, maintain at least six feet of distance from others, wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue or the inside of the elbow, and keep surfaces clean.