COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported in new settings locally, and data models now suggest a later and less extreme peak in the virus’ spread.
The Virginia Department of Health primarily tracks the spread of COVID-19 by monitoring the percentage of tests returned positive. In the Central Virginia Health District, which includes Lynchburg and surrounding counties, that rate peaked at 11.4% on Aug. 23 and has started to drop. Statewide, the percentage of positive tests has increased from around 7% to around 8% over the past two weeks.
Centra Health has seen a lower holding pattern in COVID-19 patients at Lynchburg General Hospital over the past few weeks, according to Stephanie McBride, the provider’s communications manager. She said the total number of patients between LGH’s ICU and designated COVID-19 unit has hovered around 25 patients for the past few weeks, which is down from 40 patients reported in mid-August.
The hospital has recorded 45 patients with COVID-19 who’ve died since March, she said.
Outbreaks in Centra’s other facilities have subsided: one employee at Oakwood Manor Health & Rehabilitation Center and one resident at Guggenheimer Health & Rehabilitation Center were the only individuals still positive for the disease this week, McBride said. Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services indicate Oakwood has seen 16 total cases among residents and one death over the course of the pandemic, while VDH numbers show Guggenheimer has seen five total cases.
Nursing home outbreak numbers differ between VDH and CMS because of how they’re recorded and differences in how the agencies define different types of cases.
Fairmont Crossing Health and Rehabilitation Center in Amherst, which had five positive cases among residents and seven among staff members about a month ago, now has no positive cases, according to McBride. As of Tuesday, the VDH still listed Fairmont as having an outbreak “in progress,” since outbreaks take 28 days without any new illnesses to be cleared from that list.
The CVHD also recorded its first outbreaks in correctional facilities and educational settings recently.
Outbreaks occur with at least two lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and are categorized in long-term care facilities, health care settings, congregate settings, educational settings or correctional facilities.
Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority Administrator Tim Trent confirmed one outbreak has occurred in the Amherst County Adult Detention Center in Madison Heights. There, 20 jail officers and five inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. It’s unclear where the second outbreak has occurred since VDH does not specify outbreak locations. No local school divisions have reported outbreaks.
Case numbers relayed to The News & Advance indicate several institutions of higher education in the district could qualify as outbreaks in educational settings.
As of Friday, the University of Lynchburg had 26 positive COVID-19 cases among its students, 14 of them on campus. That’s down from 46 cases among students in late August. Michael Jones, the university’s vice president of communications, said its plan to manage cases has worked in keeping case numbers “relatively flat.”
There have been a total of 20 outbreaks in the district, which have led to 136 people testing positive because of those outbreaks.
Data-driven outlooks on future caseloads in Central Virginia are more optimistic than before, but indicate the area still has yet to see peak infection rates.
Previously, the University of Virginia’s COVID- 19 model showed weekly confirmed cases in the Lynchburg metro area peaking at anywhere from 663 to 2,478 around the end of September. Now that model, with updated weekly case numbers, shows there could be anywhere from 333 new weekly cases to 524 new weekly cases sometime in October.
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