There hasn’t been much change in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke-Alleghany region in the past week.
Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said 923 new cases of the virus were confirmed since last week, which is similar to the pattern from the previous week.
“Really, we are at the same place we were at last week and I was hoping we would see a significant decrease,” Morrow said during a Tuesday morning media briefing.
On Monday, 100 people who reside within the two health districts were hospitalized. Sixty-two of the patients were admitted to hospitals last week.
“COVID is still active in our community,” Morrow said in reference to the new cases and hospitalizations.
But when looking at recent trends across the nation and in Virginia, she expects the case count to begin to decline in the coming weeks.
“We believe that we are going to start seeing some significant decreases in the coming weeks,” Morrow said.
Health officials blamed the most recent surge in the COVID cases on the Delta variant of the virus, which is highly contagious.
However, a data model from the University of Virginia is suggesting the peak of the Delta variant may be over.
Data from the U.Va. Biocomplexity Institute suggests cases peaked around Sept. 19.
Nonetheless, the institute is warning people that as the winter months approach, they must continue to use caution regarding the coronavirus.
Morrow is still stressing the need for the public to be vaccinated against the virus. And she said people need to continue to wear masks while indoors, maintain six feet of social distancing and wash their hands frequently.
The rate for new vaccine doses in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts remains stagnant. Over the past week, approximately 1,500 doses were administered.
Morrow said the delta strain of the virus continues to disproportionately affect younger segments of the population. That is because younger people have lower vaccination rates. No vaccine is available for children under 12.
Approximately 50 percent of the current cases in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts involve persons under the age of 35. Approximately one-quarter of the cases involve people 18 and under.
“Th overwhelming majority of new cases and hospitalizations continue to occur in individuals who are not fully vaccinated,” Morrow said.
Morrow noted that although it is rare for children to be hospitalized with COVID symptoms, they can spread the virus to other people. She said that is why it is important for people to get vaccinated.
A vaccine for children under 12 could soon be available. Pfizer has asked for government approval of a vaccine it has developed. Morrow said the health districts will begin administering the vaccine to children after it receives regulatory approval. That could occur in early November. The vaccine must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Virginia Department of Health.
“This is anticipatory and we look forward to offering that once the vaccine becomes available to our younger populations,” she said.
Since March 2020, there have been 33,276 documented cases of COVID-19 in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts. Health officials have attributed 571 deaths in the region to the virus.