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Rappahannock Area Health District highly concerned as COVID numbers increase

From The Rappahannock Area Health District:
As we begin the New Year, there is a great sense of optimism about the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in our area. A few weeks ago, our local hospitals began vaccinating their staff, last week, Rappahannock Area Health District (RAHD) vaccinators received their first doses of the vaccine, and this week, RAHD staff and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will begin vaccinating those identified in Tier 1a during closed Points of Distribution.
Meanwhile, through a federal partnership, long-term care facility residents and staff are preparing to have their vaccinations administered by Walgreen’s and CVS. RAHD is also in the process of contacting all non-hospital healthcare facilities, within our district, to arrange scheduling for their staff to receive the vaccine.
All of these doses of vaccine get us one step closer to developing immunity and moving past the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet, and 2021 has not started out on a good note when it comes to our district’s COVID-19 metrics. In just the first 5 days of the new year, we have recorded these increases:
• 792 new cases
• Number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 locally has increased from 92 to 114 (compare these numbers to the total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on 10/5/20, which was just 18 and on 11/5/20, which was 25)
• There have been 6 new deaths recorded
• Percent positivity has increased from 13.7% to 17.8%
To help put our percent positivity (the percent of individuals who have been tested and are positive for the virus that causes COVID-19) number in perspective, the highest number RAHD had seen previously was 17.2% on May 8, 2020. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is alarmingly widespread in our communities right now.
What will it take for all of us to take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19? Not just some of us, but ALL of us.
Certainly, we’d all like to see life return to some semblance of normalcy, sooner rather than later, right? Certainly, we’d all like to see our family members and neighbors no longer being affected by this virus, right? Certainly, we’d all like to see members of our communities stop dying. Yes, of course we all want all of this. Then we all need to be responsible for doing the things we know can help stop the spread.
These are simple things, but they work: always wear a mask when we are spending time with anyone who doesn’t live with us, WHILE remaining at least 6 feet apart, and practicing excellent hand hygiene. Ideally, we should all be staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with those outside of our households. We know that even very small social gatherings have greatly contributed to the increase of COVID-19 cases in our district and nationally.
While rolling-out the vaccine process is allowing us to finally see the “light at the end of the tunnel”, we still have to get THROUGH that tunnel. Administering the COVID 19 vaccine requires a higher level of administrative complexity than other vaccines involve.
Vaccine recipients must be registered and must answer a series of questions to make sure criteria for safely receiving the vaccine are met. Those vaccinated must also remain on site for 15 minutes to be monitored for immediate vaccine side effects or complications.
The two vaccines currently being distributed also require 2 doses, spaced 3 and 4 weeks apart. It will take some time before all in our district who wish to be fully vaccinated can be. RAHD is committed to moving as efficiently as possible through this arduous process.
In the meantime, we implore all of you to be patient and continue and in some cases, increase, safety mitigations. Now is not the time to let our guards down. Thanks so much
Joseph V. Saitta, PhD
COVID-19 Incident Commander
Public Health Advisor
Virginia Department of Health
Rappahannock Area Health District

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