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Health officials preparing as COVID-19 cases rise in Charlottesville area

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 4:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - After all the Labor Day fun and travel, Charlottesville-area health officials are gearing up for an increase in COVID -19 cases.

That’s especially true now that delta is the common variant of the virus.

“We’re sort of planning for that continued surge - another increase in cases. Hopefully it’s not as bad as we anticipate, but we’re preparing for the worst for sure,” Blue Ridge Health District Incident Commander Ryan McKay said.

The Virginia Department of Health is tracking percent positivity rates as they climb past last year. The percent positivity rate right now in the BRHD is currently 7.5%. Last year during this time it was about 4%.

“What we’ve seen historically around holidays is within a week to two weeks another increase in the number of cases and an increase in the number of close contacts,” McKay said. “It’s going to put a strain on our ability to make contact with individuals who test positive, or identifying close contacts.”

The rise in cases is putting a strain on resources at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

“We also have seen some shortages of medications, for example, associated with COVID-19,” Dr. Patrick Jackson said. “One drug that’s in national shortage right now is a drug called Tocilizumab. It’s a drug that’s used for the most severe cases of COVID-19 and it’s also used to manage some side effects of kind of a last line cancer treatment.”

Doctors including Jackson have to prioritize who needs life-saving medication more.

“We’ve been having unfortunate discussions about how we use and how we can acquire this very limited access drug to make sure that we use it in the patients who need it,” Jackson said.

That’s why Jackson says the rising number of COVID-19 cases is concerning for everyone: “The virus will continue to circulate, unfortunately, as long as there are people who are susceptible to it. I think now is a great time for people to get vaccinated. It’s certainly not too late and the vaccination is highly protective, even in the face of the delta variant and against being sick enough to come into the hospital,” he said.

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