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)
|OTHER AREA JURISDICTIONS|
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
|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|
LATEST COVID-19 DATA
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.
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.