Lynchburg now is seeing a new all-time high of daily new COVID-19 cases that continues to surpass last year’s numbers.
On Friday, 289 new cases in Lynchburg were recorded by the Virginia Department of Health. Before this month, the city’s one-day record was 122 new cases reported Jan. 17. Lynchburg saw 136 new cases and 122 new cases Sept. 2 and 3, respectively, and 217 cases were added Thursday.
Lynchburg is approaching Virginia Beach and Fairfax County in terms of the average number of new cases reported per day — localities with populations six and 14 times the size of Lynchburg’s, respectively, VDH data shows.
Lynchburg has seen an average of 130 new cases per day for the past week, while Virginia Beach has seen an average of 174 and Fairfax has seen an average of 177 cases per day.
The Central Virginia Health District, made up of Lynchburg and the surrounding counties, is similarly seeing the highest percentage of COVID-19 tests returning positive among any other health district in Virginia, according to VDH numbers.
During the past week, the area has seen 32.2% of tests returning positive results, shattering the 25.5% positivity rate record at the beginning of the year. The Pittsylvania-Danville Health District has the next-highest positivity rate in the state, with 22.8% of tests returning positive.
Covid Act Now, a nonprofit data center that provides national COVID-19 data insights, ranked Lynchburg the third most infectious locality in the U.S. as of Friday, with each infected person estimated to infect 1.49 people. That number is calculated based on historical daily new case numbers along with several other factors.
Lindsey Lockewood, population health manager and public information officer for CVHD, attributed the unprecedented surge in cases firstly to the delta variant.
“The end of August/beginning of September also marks a time common for traveling and vacations as well as the start of a new school year, all of which can bring individuals in close proximity and increase risk of exposure to the virus,” she wrote in an emailed response to questions.
Lynchburg also is significantly less vaccinated than other cities in Virginia, with about 38.7% of people fully vaccinated, compared to a statewide average of 57.7%. The surrounding counties have vaccination rates in the lower-40% range.
With COVID-19 patient numbers at Lynchburg General Hospital reaching up into the 80s this week, Centra Health officials are concerned those testing numbers could cause a “significant influx” of new patients to a system that’s already strained, according to a news release.
At its peak of 133 COVID-19 patients in mid-January, LGH saw nearly 40% of its beds occupied because of the disease.
On Friday, the hospital reported 87 COVID-19 patients, 78 of whom are unvaccinated and two of whom are partially vaccinated. Since the beginning of the month, patients there have been dying at a rate of nearly two per day — 19 had died as of Friday afternoon.