The number of new COVID-19 cases in Northern Virginia and statewide has more than tripled since earlier this spring, and health forecasters are now warning of a summer surge.
The daily average of new cases in Northern Virginia is 945.2 as of Monday, according to updated data from the Virginia Department of Health. That's the highest its been since Feb. 8, as the winter Omicron surge was waning. The average fell as low as 259 per day in mid-March and this time last year was only 225.
In its weekly report Friday, the Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia said that Loudoun County is one of two health districts in the state currently seeing a surge in cases, and the Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria districts are all seeing slow growth. Cases have plateaued in the Prince William health district.
Statewide, the health department says the daily average of new cases is 2,216, the highest since Feb. 23. The average fell as low as 705 in late March and stood at 1,014 per day on this date in 2021.
In its weekly forecast, the Biocomplexity Institute said that subvariants of the Omicron strain of COVID could drive a summer surge in Virginia that would exceed last fall's Delta surge but not be as bad as the January Omicron surge. In January, the daily average caseload peaked at 18,781 a day statewide.
The institute said hospitalizations for treatment of COVID-19 should also be lower than in the Omicron surge, when they peaked at nearly 4,000 in Virginia.
"Projected deaths are much lower than previous waves, as Virginia's immunity profile continues to improve due to vaccinations, boosters and previous infections, and as treatments become available," the institute added.
Indeed, tracking by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association shows that hospitalizations remain at their lowest levels of the pandemic. As of Monday, only 166 patients were hospitalized statewide for treatment of confirmed COVID cases, and only 28 of those were in intensive-care units and only 11 on ventilators.
The health department reported 87 deaths related to COVID last week. That's the first time that number has been below 100 since early January, before the Omicron deaths began to be reported. In total 20,237 Virginians have died from COVID.
The BA.2 strain of Omicron is starting to become dominant in Virginia, accounting for nearly half of all infections tested during the weeks ending April 9 and April 16. The U.Va. report also cited the emergence of the BA.2.12.1 subvariant, which is beginning to make inroads in New York and the Northeast.
"The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spawned a surprising number of subvariants," the U.Va. institute noted. "Each case provides an additional opportunity for COVID-19 to mutate into a new variant, and the sheer volume of Omicron cases provided hundreds of millions of opportunities to create new subvariants."
While BA.2 appears to be more transmissable than the first version of Omicron, none of the subvariants have yet caused more serious illness.