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Snowstorm leads to potential undercount in COVID-19 case numbers

Published: Jan. 9, 2022 at 9:16 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - COVID-19 case numbers are rising in the Blue Ridge Health District, even though there was less testing this past week due to Monday’s snowstorm.

Doctors say weather was a huge factor, for both people doing the testing and those trying to get to it.

“The availability of being able to get some place really reduced the number of testing sites and spots that we had this week,” Dr. Paige Perriello with Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville said.

That means a potential undercount of the percent positivity rate, though the 7-day average this past week in the district was already at a high of 26%.

“Also, a lot of people have been traveling and I think a lot of people were traveling back into town,” Perriello said. “Finally, I think a lot of people are doing home tests and those tests don’t always show up.”

Doctors say it is important to remember to tell the VDH if you have COVID-19, even if you did your own swab.

“You home test positive, you’re not reporting that to the Virginia Department of Health, and so this is a vast under reporting,” Dr. Bill Petri with UVA Health said. “It just makes the point that even more reason to be super careful right now.”

The University of Virginia has a percent positivity rate of about 24%. Even though staff says because of the holidays, and some delayed reporting, there may even be some some delays to those statistics.

“At the ebb of the epidemic, we were down one to 2% of tests being positive and now we’re up to as high as 20% of tests being positive,” Petri said. “So that’s another independent way to be able to know where we are with a pandemic.”

Perriello says Pediatric Associates tested every day this week, though they still think the reported number is lower than the reality.

“Really, the count shouldn’t change anything because it’s obvious that cases are on the rise and that we have huge number of cases right now and a ton of spread,” Periello said. “So, it always comes back to our mitigation strategies we’ve used from the beginning, which is to wear a high quality well fitting mask, particularly when you’re indoors, to avoid large settings, again, particularly indoors, to get vaccinated or boosted if you are eligible and able, and finally to stay home if you’re sick and access a test when you’re able to.”

Doctors say this undercount, even with an already high positivity rate, is a reminder to report your home tests to the VDH and to use layered mitigation strategies this week.

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