By Jeff Poole
Another week, another record.
Less than a week after reaching the highest single-day count of new COVID-19 cases, Orange, Madison and Greene counties (and the commonwealth of Virginia) set new high water marks when the Virginia Health Department reported Saturday case counts.
Statewide, 26,175 new cases were reported Saturday, topping the 19,506 reported Jan. 2, less than a week earlier.
In Orange County, the spike corresponded with the state surge, with 97 new cases reported Saturday after the previous one-day high of 81 the Sunday before.
Madison County also saw case counts surge Saturday (39), topping the one-day high it saw the Sunday prior (29).
Greene County also set a new single-day record with 62 cases Saturday, through its previous one-day high (41) was reported Dec. 31, 2021, two days earlier than the other spikes.
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Monday morning, Virginia was averaging 15,463 new cases per day on a rolling seven-day average. In Orange, the seven-day average was 54. In Greene, it was 28 and in Madison, 14.
Orange County has reported 546 new cases through the first 10 days of January, nearly as many as in all of January 2021 (572) which had been the worst month until September 2021 (657) and then December 2021 (676).
The good news accompanying the high case counts is that only 16 hospitalizations have been reported among those 572 cases in Orange County in January, and no new deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 this month.
In Madison County, January has brought 159 cases this month, with seven hospitalizations and no deaths. Among Greene County’s 297 January cases, there have been 26 hospitalizations, including a high of seven Jan. 3. However, no new deaths have been attributed to the contagious coronavirus.
Among the three counties, Greene has the highest vaccination rate with 62.9% of its population considered fully vaccinated by the VDH, with 26.6% having received a booster dose.
In Madison County, 55.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, with 22.5% having received a booster.
In Orange County, 55.4% of the population is fully vaccinated and 20.2% have gotten a booster shot.
Last Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the Virginia Department of Health will open nine new Community Testing Centers (CTCs) to increase testing availability across the commonwealth. Centers will be funded with an initial $5 million from the Virginia Department of Health, which is seeking FEMA funding to reimburse expenses and continue testing deployment. New testing centers will offer Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests—the most reliable form of testing for COVID-19—and will supplement numerous locally-coordinated Community Testing Events.
“Testing is a critical tool in our fight against COVID-19, and we must continue to everything we can do increase access,” Gov. Northam said. “As Virginians continue to grapple with a national shortage of rapid tests, expanding our PCR capabilities will ensure more Virginians have access to free, reliable testing and can better protect themselves and their families.”
The testing locations will be near or on the same property as existing VDH Community Vaccination Centers, with the closest in Charlottesville (Seminole Square, 393 Hillsdale Drive) and Fredericksburg (Central Park, 1877 Carl D. Silver Parkway). Others are located in Richmond, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Newport News, Norfolk, Prince William and Roanoke.
“Testing helps us identify individuals who are ill with the disease so the appropriate medical and public health actions can be taken and can help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver. “We understand that there is a lot of demand for testing, and this expanded capacity through the CTCs will help address some of these critical needs across the commonwealth.”
These new testing centers are expected to administer more than 50,000 tests in the month of January. Each of the nine sites will operate between four and six days per week and will be open from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., depending on the location.
CTC test results will be automatically sent via text or email message to individuals being tested, based on the information provided in the appointment system.
VDH urges people to get tested if they have symptoms, or if they have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. VDH recommends testing on day 5 after exposure, although testing on days 3-5 is also acceptable. As this is a time of high demand on testing and on the health system, if you do not have symptoms or a known exposure, VDH encourages people to postpone any non-essential travel or events that would prompt them to test beforehand.
To learn more about COVID-19 testing, visit the VDH COVID-19 Testing website at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/protect-yourself/covid-19-testing/.
For more information about how to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine and booster, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA.