Health officials warn coronavirus spreading faster through community spread

Health officials warn coronavirus spreading faster through community spread

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - In the past 48 hours, the Virginia Department of Health has reported more than 17,000 new positive COVID-19 cases, and the experts say the recent holiday travel season is not the only thing fueling the high case numbers.

Monday, the state saw the second-highest daily total ever recorded with 7,245, which is right behind Sunday’s total of nearly 10,000 new cases. Another 10 people have lost their lives to the virus and hospitalizations remain at record levels.

Even though we’re several weeks removed from the 2020 holiday season, Cat Long with the Richmond-Henrico Health District says the Commonwealth is still riding the wave of new cases brought by people traveling and spending time with family and friends during the holiday season.

“This has been a really long battle for a lot of people,” Long said. “We’re seeing a lot of people who are experiencing what we call COVID-19 fatigue.”

Long says that there are now more people than ever with the disease out in the community, which means your chances of catching when going out have never been higher.

“There is a high rate of community transmission currently, which the holidays didn’t help with,” Long said. “That means there’s a lot of people that are positive in the community, which means that with any person, your likelihood of coming in contact with somebody who is positive is higher.”

Long says they are seeing more outbreaks, particularly at long-term care facilities and in work places, but adds that even smaller group setting still invite the risk of community spread.

“We also see spread within small gatherings. I think sometimes people feel safe and they trust their friends, and sometimes we can get COVID-19 from people that we trust - they might not know that we have COVID,” Long said.

For this reason, Long says that community spread is now more likely than ever ahead of the possible protests at the state Capitol building and in Washington D.C. ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration, but the health district says regardless of what happens the health district is prepared with more COVID-19 tests to meet the needs of the community.

“We have testing about three to four times a week, and all those testing dates can be found on our website,” Long said. “On our website - in addition to our testing events - we have a list of providers in the community who also offer testing.”

The health district has also been keeping an eye out for any sign of a more contagious, but no more deadly, strain of coronavirus, which originated from the UK. Long says that there have been several reports of the strain being found in a handful of states, but so far there is no evidence of that strain being present in Virginia, though Long says the experts aren’t ruling it out entirely.

“We do not have a confirmed laboratory case, that we know of yet, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to make it here, and it also means that it’s not here already, it just means that our lab has not caught it,” Long said.

The case numbers continue to reach or break record levels just weeks before the end of the month when the latest adjustments to Governor Ralph Northam COVID-19 restriction were set to end.

The health district says that while they are unable speak to there being any additional restrictions in response to the rising case numbers, they do keep elected officials informed on the status of COVID-19 in their jurisdictions.

“Those restrictions are in place, but that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily being followed because people can’t follow them,” Long said.

Long says that among other health recommendations and safety guidelines that people should begin working from home more often if they have the ability to do so.

“We encourage people to work from home if they can, but of course that’s not a reality for everyone and a lot of people unfortunately have to choose between social distancing and being able to go to work, paying their bills and feeding their children.”

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