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COVID-19 trends in Blue Ridge Health District show surge worse than August 2020

Charlottesville's downtown mall
Charlottesville's downtown mall(WVIR)
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 7:05 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Blue Ridge Health District reports 43 new COVID-19 cases since Monday. At this time last year, COVID-19 transmission was quite different. Back then, cases per week were actually way down compared to where we are now.

Bryan Lewis heads the COVID-19 response team at the UVA Biocomplexity Institute as a computational epidemiologist and says one of the largest reasons for that is large disparities between certain age groups.

“We are extremely well vaccinated here in Albemarle, but some of the surrounding counties, a little bit less,” Lewis said. “I think a lot of our infections are going to be happening probably in the younger groups which tend to be less vaccinated.”

In August of 2020, there were only 30 COVID-19 cases in children under the age of 9, which is less than 5% of all cases. Now, that age group totals 140 cases in August 2021, accounting for 16% of overall cases.

Lewis says unvaccinated children can fuel a spread.

“It’s mainly driven, unfortunately, by folks who have not yet gotten vaccinated,” Lewis said. “We’re seeing the epidemiology get a little bit more complicated because of all these different cohorts of people who are infected.”

When you look at transmission throughout the Blue Ridge Health District in August 2020, the 7-day average sat at about 20 cases or so. Fast forward to August 2021, that average has nearly doubled.

Lewis says breakthrough cases are happening more frequently, thanks to the strength of the delta variant.

“I think that’s a big difference between this summer and last summer, I think everyone got vaccinated we saw things go down really low. It’s been over a year everyone was just like ‘whoa, finally, let’s go back to the concert let’s start having fun,’” Lewis said. “I think that partially is what is fueled a lot of this surge.”

Lewis also says flu season is already knocking on the door, and other respiratory viruses are starting to spread

“We are already seeing the flu creep up,” he said. “I don’t think that’s ever happened before in August. We’ve seen this happen in October, which is an early flu season, but it is just chomping at the bit...so it is something to be aware of.”

Lewis says flu vaccines are not completely rolled out right now, but it is a smart idea to get one this fall as soon as they become more readily available.

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