RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) — New reported COVID-19 cases and new reported deaths are heading in opposite directions in Southwest Virginia with deaths rising and cases dropping, Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data show. Five new deaths were reported in the nine-county region to bring the seven-day average of deaths to its highest level in a month.

The nine-county region reported 177 new COVID cases Wednesday, which dropped the seven-day rolling average of new cases per 100,000 to 350 — down 20% from a peak of 421 eight days ago.

For the first time in several months, Southwest Virginia’s new COVID case rate is growing less quickly than the state’s as a whole.

That contrasts with a continued slow increase in Virginia’s overall case rate, which inched up to 212 Wednesday and is up 12% since Dec. 7.

Deaths, hospitalizations far higher than state rates — vaccinations far lower

Several months of Southwest Virginia’s rates averaging more than double the state’s have resulted in a much higher death rate regionally, though. New reported deaths began increasing sharply a week ago in the wake of a steep case increase from mid-November through early December.

New weekly deaths per 100,000 climbed to 8.3 per 100,000, which is nearly four times Virginia’s rate of 2.2. In the three-and-a-half months since Sept. 1, that rate is 102 in Southwest Virginia, which is 2.8 times the state rate of 37.

Wednesday’s new reported deaths included three in Wise County and one each in Bristol and Buchanan County.

Three new COVID hospitalizations were reported — two in Wise County and one in Washington County.

Data adjustments on hospitalizations statewide continued with the removal of 115 hospitalizations — making it impossible to compare seven-day numbers. Since Sept. 1, though, Southwest Virginia has seen 220 new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 people — 2.9 times the state figure of 76.

In terms of vaccinations, the state is now at 66.5% fully vaccinated, far above Southwest Virginia’s rate of 46.5%. The national rate is now 61%.

In the past four months, an additional 11.3% of Virginians have become fully vaccinated, while the figure has risen just 8.2% in Southwest Virginia.

Statewide, VDH reported 738,649 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth on Dec. 15.

According to VDH, the total number of confirmed and probable cases is 1,006,245.

VDH reports there have been 12,605 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths across the state.

Below is a complete breakdown of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Southwest Virginia:

Note: VDH does not report whether cases are active or recovered. County and community case totals can include active, recovered, confirmed and probable cases.

Bristol, Va. – 2,574 cases / 195 hospitalizations / 51 deaths (10 new cases, 1 new death)
Buchanan County – 2,951 cases / 167 hospitalizations / 83 deaths (12 new cases, 1 new death)
Dickenson County – 2,100 cases / 67 hospitalizations / 32 deaths (13 new cases)
Lee County – 4,014 cases / 145 hospitalizations / 62 deaths (9 new cases)
Norton – 703 cases / 35 hospitalizations / 17 deaths (7 new cases)
Russell County – 4,380 cases / 165 hospitalizations / 70 deaths (35 new cases)
Scott County – 3,608 cases / 185 hospitalizations / 87 deaths (11 new cases)
Smyth County – 5,409 cases / 345 hospitalizations / 129 deaths (18 new cases)
Tazewell County – 6,404 cases / 226 hospitalizations / 120 deaths (19 new cases)
Washington County, Va. – 8,666 cases / 684 hospitalizations / 167 deaths (21 new cases, 1 new hospitalization)
Wise County – 6,200 cases / 246 hospitalizations / 138 deaths (22 new cases, 2 hospitalizations, 3 new deaths)

For full coverage of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, click HERE.