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Arrival of variant is ‘just a matter of time’

COVID-19 cases in the Piedmont Health District appear to have slowed to a crawl, as have vaccinations against the virus.

But officials warn it is only a matter of time before the Delta variant, estimated to be 50% more transmissible than current variants, arrives in the health district.

Most counties in the Piedmont Health District experienced no new cases of the virus this week. From June 30 to July 7, the counties of Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland and Lunenburg all saw zero new cases of COVID-19.

Charlotte County experienced two new cases of the virus.

While vaccination and mitigation efforts have driven much of the virus out of the area, vaccination rates continue to slow. From Monday, June 28, to Wednesday, July 7, the vaccination rates in the counties of Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland, Charlotte and Lunenburg all rose by less than a percentage point.

The percentage of fully vaccinated residents for each county are as follows:

Prince Edward – 33.3%

Buckingham – 38.3%

Cumberland – 36.5%

Charlotte – 37.3%

Lunenburg – 38.4%

As of Wednesday, the percentage of fully vaccinated Virginia residents sat at 51.2%.

The state’s number of daily reported cases has remained virtually unchanged since last week, going down just two cases to 273 July 7 compared to 275 cases June 30.

Virginia’s seven-day moving average of cases has been moving up slightly, from 172 June 30 to 180 July 7. Health officials believe this slight increase may be due to the July 4 holiday.

Officials have warned rural areas with low vaccination rates are particularly vulnerable to the Delta COVID-19 variant. On Tuesday, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reflected the Delta variant is now the dominant variant in the U.S.

Although the variant has not yet been spotted in testing samples from the Piedmont Health District, neighboring health districts such as Chesterfield, Crater, Blue Ridge and Chickahominy have all reported cases which have tested positive for the Delta variant.

Acting Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Sulola Adekoya emphasized Wednesday the Delta variant’s arrival in Piedmont is not an if but a when.

“We don’t have it yet in the Piedmont Health District, but we know it’s just a matter of time,” Adekoya noted.

Adekoya highlighted area pharmacies continue to offer all three COVID-19 vaccines. On Wednesday, she noted recent data from the CDC estimates the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to be 90% effective against the Delta variant, adding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine displays high immunity as well.

Adekoya stated the highest concern lies in those who have not yet received the vaccine.

“Those who are getting infected are those who are not vaccinated,” she said.