COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations climbing in Virginia

COVID-19 cases in Richmond and across Virginia have been on the rise all summer. Now, heading into Labor Day weekend, infectious disease experts say there could
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 4:17 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -COVID-19 cases in Richmond and across Virginia have increased all summer.

Now, heading into Labor Day weekend, infectious disease experts say there could be more ahead. Virginia Commonwealth University’s chief of infectious diseases says the new variant EG.5, or Eris, could be to blame for that. He believes it is highly transmissible, but it does not seem like it is causing more severe disease.

“COVID is never going away. It will ebb and flow like many viral respiratory infections,” VCU Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Gonzalo Bearman said. “The number of cases presenting in urgent cares, emergency departments or being hospitalized, those are cases that are certainly convincing epidemiologic data. Now, whatever we’re reporting right now is almost certainly an underreport because people are testing at home.”

Currently, COVID cases still make up less than 2% of hospital visits in the commonwealth, but that number has been increasing every week since the end of June, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.

“As variants appear, the immunity that we have either from prior infection or natural infection or vaccines may not be as strong as it was on the vaccine-derived variants. So it’s important to be aware of the variance, and the variance will drive transmission in the community, and it will also drive kind of the appearance of new vaccines down the line,” Dr. Bearman said.

Dr. Bearman says we can expect information on a new shot in the coming weeks, near the end of September. It could help with protection against Eris, though he’s not calling it a booster. He says it would be available to most people rather than just those at high risk.

“We’re anticipating a new vaccine to come out, which is an updated vaccine, much like we have updated vaccines for influenza that are made to match the more prominent strain of that season, we anticipate updates with the COVID-19 vaccine to really represent or to help provide coverage for the more recent variants out there,” he said.

While you may be looking forward to gathering with friends and family ahead of the Labor Day weekend, Dr. Bearman says you can still do that, but make sure you’re doing so safely going to be with people who may be at a higher risk.

He says anyone considered high risk could be pregnant, older or with an underlying condition.