Holiday COVID surge expected

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Piedmont Health District Director Dr. H. Robert Nash is asking residents to stay home on New Year’s Eve as the area braces for what is expected to be a disturbing surge in coronavirus cases following Christmas celebrations.

Monday, Dec. 28, Nash addressed some startling figures seen throughout the health district and the commonwealth.

On Monday the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) was reporting 71 new COVID-19 cases in Prince Edward County from Monday, Dec. 21, to Dec. 28, bringing the county’s cumulative total of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,063.

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Buckingham rose 38 cases this week for a total of 1,274. Cumberland rose just one case to 199. Charlotte County rose 22 cases for a total of 356, and Lunenburg County skyrocketed 97 cases this week for a cumulative total of 326.

Nash said Monday that while most of Prince Edward’s figures were cases of community spread, Lunenburg County’s dramatic increase in coronavirus cases could be attributed to the Lunenburg Correctional Center (LCC).

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) was reporting 66 active COVID-positive offenders on-site at LCC Monday with one offender hospitalized. LCC also had one staff member actively diagnosed with the virus Monday.

Lunenburg saw its largest jump in COVID-19 cases from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, with 40 new cases reported Dec. 25. Nash said 38 of those 40 cases were discovered as a result of point prevalence testing conducted at the prison.

He added another large portion of Lunenburg’s COVID-19 cases could be attributed to an ongoing outbreak at a local assisted living facility.

And while it seems Lunenburg County is not currently experiencing large levels of community spread of the virus, Nash believes that may be subject to change given the two outbreaks the area is facing.

The health director highlighted the department is watching for a possible spike as workers contract the virus and potentially bring it out of the facilities.

Buckingham Correctional Center (BKCC) was reporting 168 active offender cases of the virus Monday, with 12 staff diagnosed with COVID-19.

Lunenburg County was not the only place to see record virus numbers during the holiday. On Dec. 24 Virginia broke its record of daily reported coronavirus cases with 4,782 cases reported Christmas Eve.

Dec. 25 VDH reported the state’s record seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases at 4,086.

The figures are worrisome, but Nash sees even worse days on the horizon.

“I think this is just a preamble of things to come,” he said. “We’re clearly in a very disturbing surge, and we’re going to see little peaks like this, and the surge is just going to continue to go up.”

Nash was particularly worried Monday about the back-to-back holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

“I expect we’re going to see some really horrible numbers in the next two weeks … I expect that everybody going back to work today, tomorrow and Wednesday is probably going to feed into community spread from the Christmas family gatherings, and then right on the heels of that we’re going to have New Year’s Eve,” he said.

On Monday Nash asked readers to consider staying home Thursday night, Dec. 31, and celebrating the New Year with loved ones, asking that residents avoid contributing to further spread of the virus after the holidays.

“We’re going to have a very, very difficult situation,” he warned.

In discussing vaccinations Monday, Nash said the health department expects to have the Moderna vaccine on station Wednesday. On Thursday, officials hope to have all willing local health department personnel vaccinated. The department will then focus its efforts on vaccinating personnel from local doctor’s offices and dental practices.

Last week VDH announced the creation of a new COVID-19 vaccine dashboard to provide information and track COVID-19 vaccination across the commonwealth.

As of Monday, Prince Edward County was reporting 41 vaccine doses administered. Buckingham County was reporting 18 doses administered, and Cumberland County was reporting five doses administered.

Lunenburg County on Monday had administered a total of 11 doses, as did Charlotte County.