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What’s next for COVID-19 in Virginia?

Researchers say we’re in a better place now. But without precautions, pockets of new infections could continue to emerge.
Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen support a community vaccination clinic opened April...
Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen support a community vaccination clinic opened April 19, 2021, by the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.(U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 9:12 AM EDT
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Nearly 18 months after Virginia’s first recorded case of COVID-19 — a period that’s seen the virus surge and retreat four different times — new infections are once again on the decline. Once again, many researchers are cautiously optimistic that we’re leaving behind the latest wave, driven by the highly infectious delta variant, which raised hospitalizations in some areas of the state higher than they were last winter.

That doesn’t mean we’ve beaten the virus.

“We still have a very high case rate, like most of the states in the country,” said Bryan Lewis, a computational epidemiologist with the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute. “We’ve been down for a few weeks, so everybody feels good, but there are still a lot of people going into the hospital.”

As of Friday, Virginia was still recording an average of more than 2,000 new infections a day. More than 1,500 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus in the average week, according to data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Those figures seem particularly stark compared to this summer, when daily new cases dropped below 150 and COVID hospitalizations reached an all-time low.

Delta’s continued circulation means it’s no time to fully relax precautions, according to scientists. But there’s also reason to think the future may be brighter than it was at the beginning of last holiday season, which started the state’s worst surge several weeks earlier than many experts first anticipated.

For much of the pandemic, the Biocomplexity Institute has been modeling the likely trajectory of COVID-19 in Virginia using mobility data, case rates, vaccination numbers and a slew of other statistics that can predict how, where and how fast the virus will continue to spread.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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