CDC: Masks urged for area

Published 1:00 pm Friday, July 29, 2022

It’s time to mask back up. Especially if you live, work or travel to Prince Edward and Buckingham counties.

The Centers for Disease Control listed Buckingham and Prince Edward County as high COVID-19 Community Levels, with mask-wearing recommended.

According to the CDC, officials recommend wearing a mask indoors in public and on public transportation. Additionally, officials urge those who are not already fully vaccinated to do so.

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According to Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond, the district has been seeing higher community levels since June, with several counties moving between medium and high community levels.

“Since mid-July, we have regularly seen high community levels across the entire district.” Dr. Almond said. “Right now, we are in a period of significantly high transmission. Positive cases again are appearing across all workplaces and communities and families. However, thankfully we as a society have greater immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. Whether through vaccination or prior infection, most of our immune systems can now recognize and mount a good defense that likely helps keep most illnesses milder.”

As of July 21, COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations are on the rise in the United States, driving COVID-19 Community Levels up to medium or high in 75% of counties, according to the CDC.

The agency’s weekly metrics used to determine the COVID-19 Community Level in case rate per show new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population for Buckingham to be 12.8% and Prince Edward at 11%

Data shows Buckingham with a 39.5% fully vaccinated population, and Prince Edward with a 30% fully vaccinated population.

“There are three levels (low, medium, high), which are determined by looking at hospital beds being used by patients with COVID-19, new hospital admissions among people with COVID-19, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in your area,” CDC officials said in their weekly update.

The seven-day moving average for COVID cases in the U.S. increased 15.7% as of July 13, and 83.4% of the country’s total population (people 5 or older) had received at least one vaccine dose, the CDC reported.

As of July 21, there are 1,350 (41.9%) counties, districts, or territories with a high COVID-19 Community Level, 1,212 (37.6%) counties with a medium Community Level, and 658 (20.4%) counties with a low Community Level.

Cumberland County is listed with a medium Community Level.

For those communities with a medium level, the CDC recommends wearing a mask for those who have symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with COVID-19, along with wearing a mask on public transportation.

The CDC says the Omicron BA.5 is the predominant variant, causing an estimated 78% of cases. BA.5 has fueled the rapid rise in cases since June, suggesting that it spreads more efficiently than previous Omicron lineages.

“More than two years since the start of this pandemic, COVID-19 continues to be an illness that challenges how we interact with each other, how our workplaces operate, and how our health systems care for us. COVID-19 continues to disrupt. But we as a community continue to persevere, finding ways to be together safely and to continue the care and services we provide to each other.” Dr. Almond said.

According to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, only about 34% of people who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster and about 29% of people ages 50 years and older who qualify for a second booster have gotten one.

Dr. Almond said those who are immunocompromised and seniors need to continue to exercise great care. “Infection with COVID-19 can easily tip the delicate balance of challenges their bodies may face,” she said. “An infection may rage unchecked because of weakened immune systems. For this reason, when community levels are high, we ask all persons to wear masks indoors. It is one easy step we can take to provide protection for others for whom COVID-19 remains a threat. Test with any symptoms and stay home when you are sick. These are the courtesies we provide to each other to keep us all as healthy as possible.”