A week ago, on his Facebook page, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam touted a Politico story that spotlighted Virginia as one of just a handful of states with low death rates during the winter surge of COVID-19.
As it turns out, the state's death numbers were relatively low because the Virginia Department of Health had simply not processed and reported hundreds of death certificates for deaths that occurred on or after Jan. 1. Over the past six days, the health department has been working through that backlog and has reported 865 additional deaths, most in late January and early February.
That represents a 12% increase in the state's total deaths related to COVID-19, and data indicate there may still be several hundred additional death reports from early January to process. The health department's chart of deaths by date of death still shows a steep dropoff between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.
As an example of the impact of the health department's processing of COVID-19 death reports, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, the health department data showed that 24 COVID-related deaths had occurred on Jan. 20, five weeks earlier. On Thursday, that number had jumped to 55, meaning the health department processed 31 death certificates for that date alone in one day.
Asked about the reporting delay during a news conference Wednesday morning, Northam turned the question over to Virginia's health commissioner, Dr. Norman Oliver, to respond.
"The backlog of deaths reported comes from how soon those things are actually put onto a death certificate and then get to our office of vital records," Oliver said. "We have talked to our providers about that to increase the rapidity with which we get those reports."
He also noted that deaths from the virus lag behind surges in cases. "We had a big upsurge in cases that peaked in January. Cases that then proceeded to, unfortunately, die -- that happens later. And so some of these numbers are just that -- the lag from the upsurge we had -- and you'll see it come down in the coming days and weeks."
The state health department reported a one-day record of 172 deaths on Tuesday, then added 149 on Wednesday and 156 on Thursday. The total number of deaths now stands at 7,963, with nearly 3,000 of those reported since Jan. 1.
Of the new deaths over the three-day period, 68 were reported in Northern Virginia, with 30 of those in Fairfax County and 21 in Prince William County. The remainder of the Northern Virginia deaths reported the past three days were five apiece in Alexandria, Arlington County and Loudoun County, and one apiece in the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.
Meanwhile, separate data show that the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations for treatment of the virus continue to fall in Northern Virginia and statewide.
The health department reported 516 new cases of COVID-19 in Northern Virginia on Thursday, following 363 on Tuesday and 465 on Wednesday. The region's seven-day average of new cases, which peaked Jan. 18 at 1,628.4, now stands at 446, a range in which it has tracked over the past six days and at levels not seen since just before Thanksgiving.
Statewide, 2,036 new cases of coronavirus were reported Thursday, following 1,769 on Tuesday and 1,907 on Wednesday. The state's seven-day average, which peaked Jan. 18 at 6,128.4, is down to 1,869.4, its lowest level since Nov. 19.
Northern Virginia data by locality (Feb. 25, 2021)
|OTHER AREA JURISDICTIONS|
Hospitalizations for treatment of the virus have continued to fall, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. The number of patients hospitalized, 1,488, is at its lowest level since Nov. 22. In Northern Virginia, 253 patients were hospitalized as of Thursday, the fewest since Nov. 7.
The number of COVID-19 patients at Virginia's licensed nursing homes continues to plummet following vaccinations in most of those facilities that were completed by the end of January. As of Thursday, just 317 patients in nursing homes were being treated for COVID, the fewest since the association began reporting that number in June. It peaked at 2,275 just six weeks ago, on Jan. 14.
The state has reported 10 new cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C, this week. The syndrome is believed to be related to the COVID-19 virus. Of the new cases, one was in the Prince William Health District, which has now reported five overall, most in the state. An additional cases was also reported in Loudoun County, which now has two, and two cases were reported in the Rappahannock Health District, which includes the Stafford and Fredericksburg areas. None of the state's MIS-C cases has resulted in a death.
As cases overall have come down over the past six weeks, so have average diagnostic test positivity rates. In Northern Virginia, only Prince William now has a rate of 10% or more.
Seven-day average test positivity rate by health district (Feb. 25, 2021)
|Alexandria||40.1% / April 23||3.2% / Oct. 18||5.5%||Down|
|Arlington||42.8% / April 20||2.4% / June 26||4.7%||Down|
|Fairfax||38.6% / April 22||3.3% / Oct. 16||7.7%||Up|
|Loudoun||27.9% / April 28||4.0% / Sept. 30 & Oct. 3||7.5%||Down|
|Prince William||36.7% / April 18||5.4% / Oct. 20||10.0%||Down|
|Rappahannock||19.2% / Jan. 7||3.5% / July 3||10.7%||Down|
|Statewide||20.6% / April 22||4.5% / Sept. 30, Oct. 1,2,12 & 13||8.0%||Stable|
The health department's vaccine dashboard shows that 1.71 million doses of vaccines have been administered to Virginia residents out of about 2.17 million the state has received. About 543,000 Virginians have received the requisite two doses for the vaccine to be fully effective.
Vaccinations are averaging 32,569 a day, below Northam's long-term goal of 50,000. Shortages of supply due to the winter weather over the past couple of weeks have lowered that number this week, but the state has reported receiving another 402,000 doses of vaccines in the past five days, so officials expect the pace of vaccinations to pick up.
LATEST COVID-19 DATA
Northern Virginia: 516 new cases, 22 new deaths.
Statewide: 2,036 new cases, 156 new deaths.
Statewide Testing: 30,668 PCR diagnostic test results.
Northern Virginia: 157,084 cases, 1,868 deaths
Statewide: 570,928 cases, 7,963 deaths
Statewide Testing: 5.83 million PCR diagnostic tests (7.4 million when including antibody and antigen tests)
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) cases: 28 (including five in Prince William, four in Fairfax, two in Loudoun and one in Alexandria).
*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: 1,488 (down from 1,564 the previous day)
Peak Hospitalizations: 3,209 reached Jan. 13
Patients in ICU: 303 (down from 318 the previous day)
Patients Discharged: 46,430 total
- Nursing Home Patients: 317 (down from 329 the previous day and fewest since data began to be reported in June)
*Provided by Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association
For updated national and international COVID-19 data, visit the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus dashboard.