Doctors monitor rise in local COVID cases

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:51 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - A national spike in COVID-19 cases has local doctors turning their attention to the rise in the Valley.

Augusta Health and the health district have partnered to host an event to celebrate progress...
Augusta Health and the health district have partnered to host an event to celebrate progress and educate the community.(WHSV)

The CDC said COVID-19 cases are up about 66% from last week nationwide. Compared to the week prior, positive tests are up about 145 percent.

Dr. Clint Merritt, Population Health Chief at Augusta Health, says they’re definitely paying attention to the rise in cases.

“We’re seeing locally that the number of people testing positive has started to rise, just in the past week,” said Merritt. “It’s not as high as it was this winter, but it’s not as low as it was a month ago, so we’re paying attention to it.”

He says most of the new cases have to do with the highly contagious Delta variant.

“The majority of the cases now are Delta variant COVID, so we assume that’s what’s going on locally as well with our little rise,” Meritt said.

Merritt says most of the severe cases he has seen are among the unvaccinated.

“The number is somewhere between 96 and 99 percent of the hospitalized cases are unvaccinated persons,” said Merritt.

He says the spike in positive cases has made some people question their habits, and it’s important to consider what keeps you from getting sick.

“It felt so good to have Fourth of July celebrations with family members, to take masks off and be around family,” Merritt said.

He says getting vaccinated is still the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

“The most important - our best protection hands-down - is getting vaccinated,” Merritt said.

With the recent rise in cases, Merritt says you should use what works best for you. “It’s really important that we use the things that we already know work.”

That includes good hygiene and wearing a mask. “If we’ve got risks for COVID and especially if we’re unvaccinated, then when we go to the grocery or when we go to a social event, we need to be wearing a mask because we know that protects us,” he added.

Isaac Izzillo, Augusta Health Director of COVID Vaccinations and Education, says they’re still working to make the vaccine more accessible.

“What’s important to me is for our community understand that,” said Izzillo. “Honestly, I can say it’s safe, and it is extremely effective, and we have the data to show that.”

“We’re just being consistent with our governor and our president’s message and continuing outreach and access,” added Izzillo.

To further that message, Augusta Health partnered with the Central Shenandoah Valley Health District to host Vax the Valley, which is an event to celebrate vaccination progress and to vaccinate more people.

There will be musical guests, drawings and vaccinations available at the event. Vax the Valley will be held Saturday, July 24 from 4-7 p.m. at the Sunspots Pavilion in Staunton, July 31 from 1-7 p.m. at the Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, and on August 7 from 4-7 p.m. at Constitution Park in Waynesboro.

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