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No plans for new COVID precautions in Virginia, despite uptick in cases

A sign outside the Richmond registrar’s office, an early voting site, encourages people to wear...
A sign outside the Richmond registrar’s office, an early voting site, encourages people to wear masks and practice social distancing.(Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury)
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 7:36 AM EDT
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BA.2, a more infectious subvariant of omicron, now makes up the majority of new COVID-19 cases in Virginia — just under 70 percent, according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But there are no plans to reinstate indoor mask mandates or earlier pandemic precautions amid a slight uptick in cases, said Dr. Colin Greene, who was recently moved from acting to permanent commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health under Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

“Obviously, we can’t predict the future,” he said this week at a meeting for the department’s Advisory Council on Health Disparity and Health Equity. “But as of right now, we’re moving forward to a plan where we’ll deal with COVID in a way that’s consistent with more traditional disease prevention measures.”

The announcement comes as little surprise given the Youngkin administration’s vocal opposition to mandated masks and vaccinations. But it speaks to underlying uncertainty about the subvariant, estimated to be roughly 30 percent more transmissible than the original — and already highly infectious — omicron strain.

BA.2 has been linked to recent surges in China and some European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom. And Philadelphia attracted nationwide attention earlier this week when it brought back its indoor mask mandate in response to a modest rise in cases.

Virginia has also seen a slight rise since late March, which marked some of the state’s lowest case rates since the start of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, the state was recording an average of just over 1,000 new cases a day — up from an average 667 daily new cases just two weeks earlier. Virginia’s percent positivity rate, which measures the share of COVID-19 tests that come back positive, also rose from less than 4 percent to nearly 7 percent over the last two weeks.

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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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