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Emergency authorization sought for COVID pill

The health district and local hospitals are seeing some very encouraging numbers surrounding COVID-19 cases just as the news comes that an antiviral pill for the treatment of COVID could be nearing emergency use authorization.

Coronavirus data trends were looking up this week in the Piedmont Health District.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), from Sunday, Oct. 3, to Saturday, Oct. 9, Prince Edward County saw 66 new cases of the virus. Buckingham was up 47 cases, and Cumberland County saw eight new COVID-19 cases. Across the seven-day period, 30 new cases of the virus were reported out of Charlotte County, and Lunenburg saw 29 new cases.

According to VDH, Buckingham County is currently the only county in the health district considered to be trending upward in COVID-19 cases. While all other counties have been trending downward for 14 days or more, Buckingham County has been trending upward for 16 days.

No local counties saw increases in COVID-related deaths over the last week.

Great news also came this week from Centra Health. The health care provider has seen a considerable reduction in COVID-19 patients at its area hospitals.

On Monday, Oct. 11, Centra was reporting 60 total COVID patients across its system — 52 at Lynchburg General and eight at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville — compared to 85 patients the week prior.

Of the 60 patients seen across both hospitals, 14 were in the ICU, nine of which were ventilated. Twelve of Centra’s 60 patients, including two patients in the ICU, were vaccinated. The remaining 48 patients, including 12 in the ICU, were unvaccinated.

Longwood University in Farmville was reporting six active COVID-19 cases among the campus community Sunday, Oct. 10. The university has seen a cumulative number of 84 confirmed cases among students and staff since Aug. 15.

Hampden-Sydney College was reporting three active COVID-19 cases and three individuals quarantining as of its last COVID dashboard update Friday, Oct. 8. The college has experienced seven total student cases and three total staff cases this semester.

On Monday, American pharmaceutical company Merck announced it had submitted an emergency use authorization application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir. The drug could be used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults at risk of progressing to severe illness or hospitalization.

In clinic trials, molnupiravir was shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death in non-hospitalized adult patients with mild-to moderate COVID-19 by approximately 50%.

In June, the Biden Administration announced the U.S. government’s plans to procure approximately 1.7 million courses of the investigational antiviral treatment pending emergency use authorization from the FDA.

On Monday, new Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond emphasized that while the area is now seeing the beginnings of a slight decline in cases in most counties, data trends from other states and countries show that the decline from the peak of the delta surge “is often long.”

“To protect each other in our community and particularly the most vulnerable or those unable to get vaccinated like our children, we all need to do our part in continuing behaviors that diminish the spread of COVID, such as wearing masks in public indoor settings, getting tested if you have any symptoms or have a known exposure and staying home if you have been infected,” Almond said. “The most important thing we can do, though, is get vaccinated.”

Friday, Oct. 15, VDH will be hosting a community vaccination clinic at the War Memorial Building in Amelia Courthouse from noon to 4 p.m.

Almond highlighted that each person within the health district has an important role to play in keeping the community healthy, adding the best way to do so is through vaccination.

“As long as there are people to infect who have no immunity, COVID will continue to spread,” she said. “COVID is an unrelenting virus, but we now have tools to stop its worst effects. Please do your part to protect yourself, family and loved ones, and get your COVID vaccine.”

For questions and concerns regarding COVID-19 and vaccination, residents can reach out to a trusted health care provider or the local public health department. If you are having difficulty scheduling a vaccination appointment or don’t know where to go, call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (1-877-829-4682) or visit vaccinate.virginia.gov.