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State COVID cases down this week

As the rate of COVID-19 cases continues to drop statewide, the Piedmont Health District is still seeing its virus numbers rise.

From Monday, Sept. 20, to the following Monday, Sept. 27, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) was reporting 43 new cases of COVID-19 in Charlotte County.

Lunenburg County was up 35 COVID-19 cases over the last week, and VDH reported 74 new COVID-19 cases out of Prince Edward County over the last seven days.

Buckingham County saw 46 new virus cases last week, and Cumberland County rose 21 cases.

The health district saw a large number of COVID-related deaths this week. Across a seven-day period from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27, VDH reported three COVID deaths out of Prince Edward, one death in Buckingham and one in Cumberland.

In a press release distributed Wednesday, Sept. 22, Centra Health announced it has sadly seen 41 COVID-related deaths in its hospitals throughout the month of September.

On Wednesday, Centra officials said cases have been fluctuating over the last week, with Lynchburg General Hospital peaking at 120 COVID patients on Monday, Sept. 20, the highest number seen in this recent case surge. That’s just 11 patients short of the 131-COVID-patient record the hospital saw in January of this year.

While pandemic figures remain high locally, the state as a whole appears to be on the downtrend when it comes to virus cases.

VDH reported 1,997 new cases across Virginia on Monday, Sept. 27, down significantly from 2,377 cases one week prior. The state’s seven-day moving average also dropped significantly across the week from 3,580 cases Sept. 20 to 3,102 Sept. 27.

On Monday, Acting Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Sulola Adekoya noted officials are hoping the state’s numbers will continue to trend downward.

And while the area’s numbers appear to be continuing to climb slightly upward, health officials are hoping the Piedmont Health District will follow these state trends and see a decline in the weeks ahead.

Adekoya noted the health district’s low vaccination rates could delay a decline in coronavirus cases compared to other localities with a larger population of fully vaccinated residents.

As of Monday, Sept. 27, 60.1% of the commonwealth has been fully vaccinated.

“We need to play catch up,” Adekoya said.

The percentage of fully vaccinated people in each county of the health district, as of Monday, was as follows:

Charlotte: 45%

Lunenburg: 45.5%

Prince Edward: 39.3%

Buckingham: 45.5%

Cumberland: 42.2%

Longwood University in Farmville was reporting 14 active coronavirus cases on Monday with a cumulative total of 76 cases among students and staff since Aug. 15. Hampden-Sydney College was reporting five active COVID-19 cases Monday with seven individuals quarantining. The college has experienced five total student cases and one total staff case this school year.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for certain populations.

To be eligible for the booster shot, an individual must have received the two primary shots of the Pfizer vaccine a minimum of six months prior. To receive the third dose, an individual must be:

65 years of age or older;

18 through 64 years of age and at a high risk of severe COVID-19; or

18 through 64 years of age with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 which puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19.

On Monday, Adekoya said residents in the health district who meet the above criteria can now receive a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine, which the health district is making readily available to its community partners. Officials are hoping to soon receive further guidance from the FDA on potential booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

Adekoya advised that since the Moderna vaccine was the primary vaccine first being used in the area due to the Pfizer vaccine requiring very low storage temperatures, it is unlikely the area will see a large surge in vaccination following the authorization of the booster shot. That being said, the health district is hoping over the next week to work with long-term care facilities to determine which residents may be eligible for the booster.

Adekoya closed her interview Monday with a familiar message, asking that residents continue to use mitigation strategies and seek vaccination if they haven’t already done so.

“If you’re not vaccinated, please get vaccinated,” she said.