RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) — Southwest Virginia’s reported COVID-19 deaths continued increasing Tuesday as the Omicron variant’s toll mounted and eight new deaths were reported by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

The nine-county region also reported 342 new COVID-19 cases on a day its community spread rate dropped below 1,000 weekly cases per 100,000 people for the first time in a month. Southwest Virginia’s community spread rate has been more than triple the statewide rate for the past five days.

Southwest Virginia is taking longer than the state did as a whole to shake high new COVID-19 case rates from the Omicron variant surge.

The less-vaccinated region has seen a slower drop in cases than the state as a whole did following the peak case rate during the Omicron surge.

New deaths reported Tuesday included two each in Scott County and Bristol and one each in Buchanan, Lee, Smyth and Tazewell counties. Deaths can be reported up to several weeks after they occur and the recent increase regionally follows the region’s peak case rate, which was three weeks ago.

Population-adjusted death rates for COVID-19 have been nearly double the rate statewide since Jan. 1. That gap could easily grow due to a couple factors: the later arrival of Omicron in Southwest Virginia and the overall case rate staying higher for a longer period.

While some early January reported deaths likely occurred in December, that would be true both statewide and regionally. With that in mind, the COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 population for 2022 is 44.5 in Southwest Virginia and 25.5 statewide.

Russell and Wise counties have been hit hardest during that period, with Russell’s rate at 65.9, based on 17 deaths, and Wise’s (including Norton) at 62.8 (25 total deaths). Also above the region’s average is Tazewell County at 54.4.

Southwest Virginia now has a full pandemic COVID death rate of 403, representing 1,150 deaths. Virginia’s rate stands at 206, while the United States’ overall rate is 276. No individual state has a rate higher than Southwest Virginia’s.

Smyth County has the third-highest death rate among Virginia’s 95 counties and Wise County the fourth-highest.

Southwest Virginia also saw eight new COVID hospitalizations reported, with two each in Buchanan and Scott counties, two in Bristol, and one each in Tazewell and Wise counties.

Statewide, VDH reported 1,150,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth on Feb. 15.

According to VDH, the total number of confirmed and probable cases is 1,613,719.

VDH reports there have been 14,723 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths across the state.

Below is a complete breakdown of local COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Southwest Virginia, with new case numbers on Feb. 15.

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. – 4,214 cases / 212 hospitalizations / 67 deaths (19 new cases, 2 new hospitalizations, 2 new deaths)
Buchanan County – 
4,421 cases / 188 hospitalizations / 93 deaths (22 new cases, 2 new hospitalizations, 1 new death)
Dickenson County – 
3,120 cases / 70 hospitalizations / 40 deaths (16 new cases)
Lee County – 
5,932 cases / 156 hospitalizations / 79 deaths (33 new cases, 1 new death)
Norton – 
1,230 cases / 38 hospitalizations / 22 deaths (11 new cases)
Russell County – 
6,485 cases / 185 hospitalizations / 94 deaths (33 new cases)
Scott County – 
5,445 cases / 199 hospitalizations / 98 deaths (34 new cases, 2 new hospitalizations, 2 new deaths)
Smyth County – 
8,194 cases / 371 hospitalizations / 146 deaths (48 new cases, 1 new death)
Tazewell County – 
9,529 cases / 253 hospitalizations / 143 deaths (30 new cases, 1 new hospitalization, 1 new death)
Washington County, Va. – 
13,203 cases / 728 hospitalizations / 199 deaths (50 new cases)
Wise County – 
9,624 cases / 287 hospitalizations / 169 deaths (46 new cases, 1 new hospitalization)

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