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Rise in COVID cases, not hospitalizations in Central Virginia

Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
An interactive map from the CDC depicts counties in yellow that have a medium risk of COVID transmission, such as Albemarle County.

While parts of the Central Shenandoah Health District are currently the state's hotspot for COVID transmission, a rise in cases in central Virginia has been more measured. Ryan McKay is the director of policy and planning and COVID-19 incident commander for the Blue Ridge District.

RYAN MCKAY: So, Greene, Charlottesville, Albemarle, and Louisa and Fluvanna counties have all exceeded that sort of threshold which has put us in the medium range … We've seen a slow and steady increase in cases throughout for probably about the last month, month and a half.

But that medium-risk level comes from those localities having at least 200 people per 100,000 residents testing positive for COVID – not hospitalizations.

MCKAY: Hospitalization rates really haven't increased at all, maybe slightly. … So I think the combination between the severity of this particular variant and, probably more importantly, the high rate of vaccinations has kept hospitalization down, at least in our district.

What is concerning to the health district is that, while the availability of at-home tests is very convenient, it means a lot of COVID cases don't get reported to public health officials these days.

MCKAY: There's a lot more COVID out there than what we're actually seeing, and I think the concern is that individuals are maybe going out while they're sick, going out when they're symptomatic, even forgoing testing at all, which potentially puts others at risk.

He said they have a team of contract tracers at the ready if another bad surge were to hit.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.