If you’ve been following the daily COVID-19 updates by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA), you probably have noticed the numbers for new cases and hospitalizations starting to tick up again, after several weeks of hovering at relatively low levels. For instance, VHHA reports that COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased from 783 on July 6 to 1,020 as of the July 11 morning report. As for VDH, new cases over the last two-day period (July 10 and July 11 reports) were 1,794, the highest two-day increase since June 8-9.
Note that Virginia entered Phase 3 on July 1, just ten days ago; prior to that, much of Virginia entered Phase 2 on June 5…and much of Virginia entered Phase 1 on May 15. So now, we are approaching two months since Virginia started “reopening,” and now there’s increasing concern that we might need to move back to Phase 2, with Gov. Northam stressing the importance of “avoid[ing] the same spike in #COVID19 cases that other states are experiencing,” while noting that “we are starting to see a concerning increase, particularly in Hampton Roads.”
So, increasingly, it seems possible – maybe even likely – that Virginia might have to pull back from Phase 3 to Phase 2. [Personally, I’d argue that we were too aggressive to move into Phase 3, and that the data really didn’t support it.] Note that if we do pull back to Phase 2, it’s going to be extremely difficult if not impossible to reopen schools, given Phase 2 guidelines, which refer to “limited in-person instruction to preschool through third grade and English Learner students,” “six feet of physical distance to the greatest extent possible,” etc. Of course, even in Phase 3, school districts are struggling to figure out a mix of distance learning and in-person instruction to try to balance educational and health considerations…and again, that’s only going to get more difficult if we move back to Phase 2, driven by worsening data/evidence on the COVID-19 pandemic in Virginia.
Speaking of data/evidence, see here and below for UVA’s COVID-19 model weekly update. Among the findings from the July 10 report are:
- “COVID-19 activity is increasing in a number of Virginia’s health districts“
- “Percent positivity of COVID-19 tests, a key indicator of whether testing is keeping up with need, has steadied and increased slightly to just above 6%. This has corresponded with an increase in the average number of days between symptom onset and detection to just above 5 days.”
- “Hospitalizations are also beginning to creep upward, particularly outside of Northern Virginia.”
- “Several states bordering Virginia are seeing strong COVID19 case growth“
- “The reproduction rate is above 1.0 statewide and in four of six HPP regions”
- “Last week, 16 of Virginia’s districts were tracking the ‘Steady – Better Detection’
scenario. This week, that number decreased to 7. Mirroring this, only 10 districts were tracking pre-peak scenarios last week. This week, there are 14.”
Clearly, Virginia officials, from Gov. Northam on down, can’t be happy about this report. Even worse, it comes in the deteriorating national context; for intsance, see the NY Times headline this morning, “Coronavirus Cases in U.S. Soar Past 68,000, Shattering Record,” with the “U.S. death toll…also on the rise.” As a result, at least some states are considering “rolling back re-opening plans.” The question, will one of those be Virginia? And when might that happen? If I were to bet on the answers, I’d say “yes” and “soon.” How about you?