Local virus cases see an increase

Published 2:21 pm Thursday, October 8, 2020

The area is suddenly seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases.

H. Robert Nash

According to Piedmont Health District Director Dr. H. Robert Nash, many local counties have seen a small jump in cases this week, with attributions to the jump ranging from community spread to local colleges to religious events.

Prince Edward County, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), has increased by 42 coronavirus cases in just one week, jumping from 583 cases last Wednesday, Sept. 30, to 625 Wednesday, Oct. 7.

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“Prince Edward County is the hub of the district with the greatest concentration of population,” Nash said Wednesday. “We are seeing an uptick in our rolling average.”

Nash said a significant contribution of the county’s latest cases have come from the local institutions of higher learning, remarking that local health officials have identified 17 cases from the two colleges in the last five days.

Hampden-Sydney College has seen a sizable increase in the number of students quarantining since last week.

According to Hampden-Sydney Director of Communications and Marketing Gordon Neal, the college closed last week’s COVID-19 dashboard with a total of 15 active positive coronavirus cases and 49 individuals quarantined. As of the latest update, the college has 18 active cases with 80 individuals quarantining.

There have been 58 cumulative student cases of the virus and two cumulative staff cases at Hampden-Sydney College.

Neal highlighted the college anticipated that there would be positive cases and that students would cycle in and out of isolation and quarantine.

“To prevent the spread of the coronavirus on campus, we are quickly isolating positive cases and quarantining individuals who were in close contact with a person who has COVID-19, individuals who self-reported symptoms and are awaiting test results, and individuals who were in close contact with a symptomatic individual who is awaiting test results,” he said. “Given recent CDC guidance on September 18, we are also testing the close contacts of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“The college is continuing to monitor for trends and adapt as the situation evolves. All community members must continue to be vigilant in following precautions, including wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, washing hands frequently, and self-monitoring for symptoms.”

Neal added Hampden-Sydney has been providing flu shots at no cost to students and employees as officials prepare for flu season.

Longwood University was reporting 11 active cases of the virus Tuesday, Oct. 6, an uptick from last week when the university had fewer than five active cases.

Longwood Assistant Vice President of Communications Matthew McWilliams said Wednesday that semester-wide cases and quarantine rates have fluctuated as expected while still remaining within a manageable range.

“We are pleased with the numbers that we’ve seen so far this semester, which are the result of hard work by many and the seriousness with which our students have taken this,” he said. But we remain vigilant, and will continue to focus aggressively on social distancing practices, quarantines and contact tracing to mitigate spread. These steps have been effective so far at limiting cases while allowing Longwood students to be here to learn in-person, and we will continue these efforts as long as needed.”

Nash said Prince Edward is also experiencing small outbreaks that are kicking up in long-term care facilities in the area as well as community spread of the virus.

Nearby Charlotte County has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in the last week, also going up 42 cases, from 107 to 149.

On Wednesday Nash said Charlotte’s bump could be related to a church activity that happened last week.

“A lot of those are from that particular event,” he said.

Buckingham County, too, has seen a bump in its cases. According to VDH, the county has had 23 new cases in the last week. Nash commented that Buckingham’s cases are distributed throughout the county and the result of community spread.

Despite some of the numbers seen in neighboring localities, Cumberland County is still doing quite well, with only four new VDH-reported cases popping up this week.

Nash said Cumberland is currently the only county in the health district where officials are seeing a consistent decrease in cases. He added the county has one of the lowest case rates in the state.

Despite these upticks, hospitalizations in the district are not increasing significantly, nor are deaths, according to the VDH. Buckingham County saw one additional hospitalization of a COVID patient this week, as did Charlotte. Prince Edward saw no additional hospitalizations since last week and neither did Cumberland County.

Nash said the region is still seeing lower case rates than the rest of the commonwealth. He added Virginia is still overall doing very well compared to surrounding states.