University of Virginia COVID-19 Model 12.19.20.png

The University of Virginia model shows that COVID-19 cases could peak at over 98,000 a week statewide in early February. 

Virginia reported its 300,000th COVID-19 case on Saturday, just 35 days after topping 200,000, and a new model from the University of Virginia predicts the state will see tens of thousands of new cases this winter before vaccinations begin to take effect.

The recent huge surge in cases statewide continues to translate into increased hospitalizations and deaths related to the coronavirus.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported a record 2,429 patients being treated in state hospitals for COVID-19 on Saturday. That's up about 300 from last Saturday and nearly 600 from two weeks ago.  And the Virginia Department of Health has reported 90 new deaths related to the virus in the past two days and 234 in the past week, one of the highest weekly numbers since the pandemic started. 

Meanwhile, the new model from U.Va.'s Biocomplexity Institute, released Friday, predicts that the post-Thanksgiving surge could lead to devastating impacts in January and February, with weekly new cases peaking somewhere between 68,000 and 98,000 in late January or early February. That would be three to four times the current caseload.

"Cold weather, time indoors, and pandemic fatigue, spurred by holiday travel and gatherings, increase the risk of transmission," the U.Va. report stated. "Meanwhile, the impact of new vaccines, while promising, will not be felt for several months. These risks have now been realized. Early data indicates that the post-Thanksgiving surge is large. If compounded with surges accompanying Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter holidays, it could be a long, cold winter."

The U.Va. report noted that mitigation strategies, such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks, will have more impact on case numbers than the vaccine during the winter.  The initial tier of vaccinations is just for health-care workers and long-term care residents. Gov. Ralph Northam's enhanced restrictions on gatherings, along with a curfew between midnight and 5 a.m., took effect Monday. 

"The vaccine will have limited impact until late spring or summer," the report stated. "In the meantime, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will continue to rise. We will need to continue to take steps to flatten the curve and see us through to spring. The good news is the effect of behavioral and community mitigation strategies, which will have a much larger impact on transmission for the foreseeable future, are enhanced as the vaccine rolls out."

In total, the model predicts 402,000 new cases in 2021, with most of those occurring in the early months of the year.  If that number is accurate, it means over 700,000 Virginians will have contracted the virus, representing just less than 10% of the state's population. 

The U.Va. model was prepared based on data through Dec. 14, and caseloads have fallen slightly this week from their post-Thanksgiving highs, according to the Virginia Department of Health. 

The health department reported 3,584 new cases Saturday, following 3,295 on Friday.  Saturday's report brought the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 302,972.  It took the state nearly five months, until Aug. 9, to record its first 100,000 cases, a little over three months, until Nov. 14, to record the next 100,000, and just 35 days to record the last 100,000. 

The state's seven-day average of new cases stands at 3,479.6, below the peak of 3,920.3 reached Dec. 12. The average has fallen at least slightly every day since then, although it's still almost three times the spring peak. 

In Northern Virginia, the data are following a similar trend.  The health department reported 768 new cases Saturday, following 797 on Friday. The region's seven-day average is at 855.4, also down from its record high of 1,124.4 set Dec. 12.   All other regions of the state are slightly below their record highs as well.  

The health department reported 45 new deaths statewide related to the virus both Friday and Saturday.  Of the new deaths, six were in Northern Virginia (three Friday and three Saturday): four total in Fairfax County and one apiece in Arlington County and Alexandria.  

Northern Virginia data by locality (Dec. 19, 2020)

SOURCE: Virginia Department of Health

Locality Cases Hospitalizations Deaths
Alexandria 6,533 411 83
Arlington 7,821 633 168
Fairfax 38,738 2,766 653
Fairfax City 264 24 10
Falls Church 147 16 6
Loudoun 12,503 620 155
Manassas 2,653 145 29
Manassas Park 854 62 8
Prince William 22,355 1,176 247
Totals 91,868 5,853 1,359
County/City Cases Hospitalizations Deaths
Fredericksburg 897 62 9
Spotsylvania 3,996 198 62
Stafford 4,335 218 23
Fauquier 2,040 84 28
Culpeper 2,685 127 18

Test positivity rates both statewide and in Northern Virginia continue to track in a relatively narrow range, where they have been since Thanksgiving. 

Seven-day average test positivity rate by health district

SOURCE: Virginia Department of Health

Health District Peak Low Current Trend
Alexandria 40.1% / April 23 3.2% / Oct. 18 8.4% Down
Arlington 42.8% / April 20 2.4% / June 26 7.6% Down
Fairfax 38.6% / April 22 3.3% / Oct. 16 11.2% Up
Loudoun 27.9% / April 28 4.0% / Sept. 30 & Oct. 3 12.8% Up
Prince William 36.7% / April 18 5.4% / Oct. 20 16.5% Up
Rappahannock 17.2% / May 8 3.5% / July 3 11.9% Down
Statewide 20.6% / April 22 4.5% / Sept. 30, Oct. 1,2,12 & 13 11.4% Down


New Cases/Deaths

  • Northern Virginia: 768 new cases, 3 new deaths. 

  • Statewide: 3,584 new cases, 45 new deaths.

  • Statewide Testing: 56,986 PCR diagnostic test results reported.     

Overall Total

  • Northern Virginia: 91,868 cases, 1,359 deaths  

  • Statewide: 302,972 cases, 4,643 deaths

  • Statewide Testing: 3.89 million PCR diagnostic tests (4.59 million when including antibody and antigen tests)  

  • Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) cases: 12 

*Provided by Virginia Department of Health. The health department's COVID-19 data is updated each morning by 10 a.m. and includes reports by local health agencies before 5 p.m. the previous day.

Statewide Hospital and Nursing Home Data

  • Hospitalizations: 2,429 (up from 2,409 the previous day)

  • Peak Hospitalizations: 2,429 reached Dec. 19.

  • Patients in ICU: 495 (down from 510 the previous day)
  • Patients Discharged: 27,633 total

  • Nursing Home Patients: 1,559 (up from 1,538 the previous day and most since at least June 23) 

*Provided by Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association

For updated national and international COVID-19 data, visit the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus dashboard.

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