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Where COVID-19 stands in the Valley heading into the holidays

Published: Dec. 19, 2021 at 8:46 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2021 at 12:41 AM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise across the country and in the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Department of Health is urging people to take measures to stop the spread.

“Our case count now is kind of where we were during the fall surge. I expect we’re gonna continue to see a significant increase in cases over the next couple of weeks as people get together for the holidays,” said Laura Lee Wight, public information officer for the Central Shenandoah Health District.

Augusta County currently has the most active cases in the Central Shenandoah Health District with a seven day average of 32 new cases a day.

The problem is even greater in the northern part of the Valley where vaccination rates are lower.

“Page County went from single digits of cases per day back in late October to about 20 a day now. Shenandoah County has a bigger population, they’re seeing about 35 cases a day,” said Dr. Colin Greene, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District.

In Page County, just under 46% of the population is fully vaccinated, which is concerning to local health officials since there is a correlation between vaccination rates and COVID death rates.

“If you look county by county the correlation is striking, and unfortunately Shenandoah and Page Counties are both among the highest percentage of the population that’s unvaccinated and also have some of the highest death rates,” said Greene.

VDH says with cases rising, it’s important to practice mitigation strategies during holiday celebrations.

“If you’re in a mixed vaccinated household, some individuals aren’t vaccinated, you really should consider wearing a mask when you’re with your family. You should also really consider if you’re not feeling well maybe not participating in holiday traditions in person,” said Wight. “Maybe consider being outside or being masked, making sure you’re social distanced and then getting tested afterwards.”

Greene said for those who are unvaccinated, it’s important to have good judgement when seeing elderly relatives.

“If you’re not vaccinated, think about whether you want to attend groupings with elderly and frail people at all, and it’s unfortunate to say that but being unvaccinated not only has a higher risk for catching it but also spreading it,” he said.

VDH says the rise in cases can be attributed to a number of factors.

“It’s cold and it’s the holiday season so we’re all going inside, maybe seeing family or friends and being a little bit more lenient going into crowded spaces, restaurants, concerts, etc.” said Wight.

The emergence of COVID variants is also contributing to the rise in cases.

While Omicron is the latest to make headlines, it’s still the Delta variant that is causing problems in the Valley.

“We live in the Shenandoah Valley, so civil war analogies are common. The Omicron is the enemy’s cavalry units coming over the distant ridge. The Delta variant is the enemy’s infantry coming at you with fixed bayonets, so Delta is what we need to deal with right now,” said Greene.

While COVID conditions are worsening across the country, Greene said he doesn’t believe things are to the level of needing another shutdown.

“I don’t know anybody whose talking about for example any shutdowns or new mandates. I think probably those are in the rearview mirror for the time being,” Greene said.

Health officials continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated.

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