RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) — Southwest Virginia’s rate of new COVID cases decreased over the weekend, but the region also recorded 18 new COVID hospitalizations and seven new deaths, according to Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data.

VDH reported 291 new cases across the nine-county region, and the seven-day rolling average of new cases per 100,000 population decreased to 370 from 401. That 8% decrease compared to a 1% increase statewide, as Virginia’s overall rate inched up to 207.

Until last week, the rural area’s new case rate had been at least double that of the state since mid-September. While it’s still well above the state average, Southwest Virginia’s rate has declined over the past week from 421, a drop of 12%, while the state’s rate has continued a slow climb, rising 9% from 190 to 207 during the same period.

Just a few weeks ago, Southwest Virginia’s rate of 334 was 140% higher than Virginia’s 139. Monday, the region’s 370 was 79% higher than the state’s 190.

The highest regional rates are in Dickenson, Washington, Russell and Wise counties — all above 400. A surge that sent Washington County’s rate to a state high of 511 a week ago has abated somewhat, but the region’s largest county is still at 462.

Hospitalization, death rates still much higher than state’s

While the large gap in cases may finally be narrowing, the region remains far above state numbers in COVID hospitalizations and deaths.

The weekend saw another 14 new hospitalizations reported in Washington County, which has the state’s highest hospitalization rate per 100,000 over the course of the pandemic. Another two hospitalizations were recorded in Bristol.

Lee and Scott counties each reported one new hospitalization.

The region’s seven-day rate of new COVID hospitalizations remained high at 15.2 per 100,000. That’s far above Virginia’s, but another data adjustment at the state level — a decrease of 106 reported Sunday — made a seven-day comparison inaccurate.

Since Sept. 1, though, the region’s rate is 216 per 100,000, which is nearly triple the state rate of 78.

The seven new deaths — three in Washington County, two in Smyth County and one each in Dickenson and Scott counties — brought the seven-day average per 100,000 up to 5.2.

That rate is well over double the state average, which reached 2.2 after 62 deaths were reported overall. That meant Southwest Virginia, with just 3.4% of the state’s population, reported 11.3% of the weekend’s COVID deaths.

The region’s now reported 98 COVID deaths per 100,000 population since Sept. 1, compared to 36 statewide.

Vaccination rates fall further behind state’s

Uptake of new vaccinations remains slower in Southwest Virginia than it does statewide.

As of Monday, fewer than half of Southwest Virginians are fully vaccinated. The 46.5% rate is almost 20% lower than Virginia’s 66.4% and also far below the national rate of 60.8%.

The gap is even more pronounced among the latest group to become eligible for vaccines.

More than a quarter of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received at least a first dose of vaccine statewide in Virginia, with the weekend bringing that total to 26.6%. Southwest Virginia’s total is 9.1%, with only Norton, Washington County, Smyth County and Bristol above 10%.

Statewide, VDH reported 734,937 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth on Dec. 13.

According to VDH, the total number of confirmed and probable cases is 1,000,694.

VDH reports there have been 12,547 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. – 2,558 cases / 192 hospitalizations / 50 deaths (23 new cases, 2 new hospitalizations)
Buchanan County – 2,929 cases / 167 hospitalizations / 82 deaths (9 new cases)
Dickenson County – 2,082 cases / 67 hospitalizations / 31 deaths (19 new cases, 1 new death)
Lee County – 3,999 cases / 145 hospitalizations / 62 deaths (18 new cases, 1 new hospitalization)
Norton – 695 cases / 35 hospitalizations / 17 deaths (8 new cases)
Russell County – 4,329 cases / 165 hospitalizations / 70 deaths (29 new cases)
Scott County – 3,588 cases / 185 hospitalizations / 87 deaths (20 new cases, 1 new hospitalization, 1 new death)
Smyth County – 5,380 cases / 343 hospitalizations / 128 deaths (32 new cases, 2 new deaths)
Tazewell County – 6,366 cases / 225 hospitalizations / 120 deaths (41 new cases)
Washington County, Va. – 8,604 cases / 678 hospitalizations / 164 deaths (58 new cases, 14 new hospitalizations, 3 new deaths)
Wise County – 6,150 cases / 244 hospitalizations / 134 deaths (34 new cases)

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