UVA doctor weighs in on dropping case counts paired with relaxed COVID-19 restrictions

Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 4:58 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - COVID-19 cases are on the decline in the greater-Charlottesville area, and hospitalizations are down at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

However, there are many lingering questions about what this may mean as places drop mask requirements. Some of those questions concern if spring is going to be different than last spring in terms of case numbers now that more of the population is vaccinated against the virus.

“I think we can anticipate that the spring and summer, COVID’s going to be much less of an issue for us on a day-to-day basis, but we should anticipate that it could come back,” Doctor Costi Sifri, an infectious disease specialist with UVA Health, said Friday, March 4. “I think time will tell.”

Right now, health care workers at UVA can skip the “Healthy Hoos” app that screens for COVID-19. In public school classrooms, masks are now optional for students, and some businesses are welcoming people without covering their faces.

One point of vulnerability is younger kids. Only about half of those ages 5 to 11 in the Blue Ridge Health District are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“In other locations like ours, where we’re still at a high level, it seems very prudent to me that students continue to mask indoors,” Dr. Sifri said. “There is that potential that as mitigation efforts become less restricted, as people adopt a return to normal life, whether we may see some increase in cases or perhaps just a slowing in cases that we’re seeing.”

Low case rates now, could cause trouble down the road, as new variants may emerge. Dr. Sifri says those variants may not be as severe as those we’ve seen in the past.

“I think what we’ll see here is omicron in some places, and the B.A.2 variant may replace the B.A.1 variant. You can anticipate that could happen in some places because B.A.2 is more transmissible than B.A.1, but we’re probably not going to see a significant impact in terms of consequences,” he said.

Dr. Sifri says he’s hopeful about the downward trend of cases in the region.

“I think we really need to remain vigilant and understand that new variants can pop up and present new challenges,” he said. “Nothing is guaranteed, but we are fortunately now on a better trajectory of COVID impact in our communities around the country and it’s improving here locally, too, and I’m looking forward to it improving in the coming weeks and months.”

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