Cases plummet in Piedmont

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Piedmont Health District is seeing a speedier decrease in COVID-19 cases this week as Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signs a bill to empower parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates.

The area’s recovery following last month’s omicron surge has picked up some speed this week. According to data pulled from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), all counties in the health district have been trending downward in cases for several weeks.

Data posted by VDH shows that from the period of Monday, Feb. 14, to Monday, Feb. 21, Prince Edward County saw 48 reported cases of the virus. Buckingham saw 47 new COVID-19 cases, and Cumberland rose by eight cases. Charlotte county observed 35 new COVID-19 cases over the last week, and Lunenburg was up by 23 cases.

Nearly all counties in the health district saw their weekly COVID-19 cases decrease by more than half compared to last week’s figures.

Prince Edward, Charlotte and Lunenburg counties each reported one new COVID-related death in the last week.

The state as a whole is seeing similar figures. On Friday, Feb. 18, Virginia reported 2,846 new COVID-19 cases. That’s down from 4,275 cases reported the previous Friday. The state’s seven-day moving average dropped from 4,379 cases Feb. 11 to 2,858 on Feb. 18.

Longwood University in Farmville was reporting seven active cases of the virus in its campus community as of Sunday, Feb. 20. Hampden-Sydney College was reporting 11 active cases of the virus and four individuals quarantining as of its last update Wednesday, Feb. 16.

COVID-related deaths have also dropped in the commonwealth from 89 deaths reported Feb. 11 to 69 reported Feb. 18. The state’s seven-day moving average for deaths dropped this week from 111.3 to 76.3 as of Friday.

The good news kept coming this week as Centra Health continued to report lowered numbers of COVID patients at its hospitals. On Friday, Feb. 18, Centra was reporting 71 total COVID-19 patients out of its Lynchburg, Bedford and Southside hospitals, nine of which were being treated in the ICU. Of Centar’s nine ICU patients, four were actively being vented Friday.

With improved COVID-19 figures came the announcement this week that Gov. Youngkin had signed SB739.

The bill, which the governor signed Wednesday, Feb. 16, creates a parental opt-out from local school mask mandates and ensures a five days a week of in-person instruction.

An announcement from the Office of the Governor on Wednesday stated the bill would take effect immediately, but school districts will be provided a transition period to comply by March 1.

“Since day one, we have worked to empower Virginia parents who want to have a voice in the upbringing and education of their children,” Youngkin stated Wednesday. “This is a defining moment and decisive victory for parents and kids across the commonwealth. We are reaffirming that parents matter by signing SB739, effectively giving parents the ability to opt-out of school mask mandates.”

On Monday, Feb. 21, Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond spoke to the concept of living alongside the virus that has impacted society for nearly two years.

“We are now at a place in the pandemic where we, as a society, need to learn to find a balanced way of living with the virus, one in which the virus no longer dominates our lives, but becomes one of the many risks we have to consider and manage,” Almond said. “The pattern of that dance with COVID remains to be seen. And public health structures will continue careful surveillance as we move forward to be able to better predict when to expect surges.”

Almond said for some residents — those who are older or immunocompromised — the virus will always remain a greater threat.

“But, thankfully, vaccinations, testing and the availability of antivirals and other therapeutics make this a disease we can manage,” she noted “We also now know how this virus spreads and will continue to take steps to become a healthier society with improved ventilation systems, better habits of hygiene and a stronger public health system to ensure immunizations for many of our most threatening communicable illnesses are readily available.”

Almond said for now, residents can begin to reduce their ‘individual high-levels of vigilance,’ and trust in the ongoing eyes of epidemiologists, virologists and health care practitioners to continue to keep watch and alert the community when it needs to increase its guard.

“This will be an extended process of emerging after two years, and there will be some restrictions that remain in higher risk situations or as protections for those who are most vulnerable. Throughout, we should continue to ask questions when we have concerns; we should inquire with those same experts about our individual risks and need for particular levels of protection — such as mask-wearing; and we should continue healthy habits that help to enhance our overall well-being. Vaccinations have always been part of that equation and will continue to be part of keeping us healthy and whole.”

Vaccination rates in each county of the health district, as of Monday, were as follows:

Prince Edward: population fully vaccinated: 45.3%, population with booster shot: 23.2%

Buckingham: population fully vaccinated: 54.4%, population with booster shot: 25.9%

Cumberland: population fully vaccinated: 49.9%, population with booster shot: 22%

Charlotte: population fully vaccinated: 54.1%, population with booster shot: 24.9%

Lunenburg: population fully vaccinated: 55.2%, population with booster shot: 25.8%

LOCAL VACCINATION EVENTS:

Friday, Feb. 25 at The Crystal Cathedral located at 16764 Oak St. in Dillwyn from 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Friday, Feb. 25 at Dollar General located at 4814 Penlan Road in New Canton from 2 – 5:30 p.m.

FREE PCR TESTING EVENTS

(results in 2-3 days):

Blackstone Courier-Record located at 111 Maple in Blackstone on Wednesday, Feb. 23 from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Farmville Testing Center — Curative at Longwood Midtown located at 121 Midtown Ave. in Farmville. M-F 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Walk-ins welcome.