SW VA COVID hospitalization spike ‘definitely something we’re concerned about,’ health official says

Local Coronavirus Coverage

13 reported Tuesday

RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) — Southwest Virginia only accounts for 3.4% of the state’s total population, but since Oct. 15 the rural region’s 150 reported COVID-19 hospitalizations represent 12.2% of the state’s number for that metric.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported another 13 hospitalizations in the nine-county region Tuesday. That brought the seven-day rolling average of new hospitalizations to 25.2, a delta-variant high for the region and nearly five times the state’s rate of 5.4.

A total of 97 new cases were reported Tuesday. A deduction of four from Dickenson County left the net gain at 93. VDH also reported six new deaths, including two in Buchanan County and one each in Russell, Scott, Smyth and Tazewell counties.

“It’s definitely something we’re concerned about,” Mount Rogers Health District Population Health Manager Breanne Forbes Hubbard said of the hospitalization numbers.

“I was just talking with our epidemiologist this morning saying, ‘holy cow, we had a lot of hospitalizations in the last week,’ and you know, she just said, ‘yep, people are getting really sick with this.’ And so it’s just unfortunately what we’re seeing right now.”

The new hospitalizations included six in Smyth County, three in Buchanan County, two in Washington County and one each in Scott and Wise counties.

The region’s new case rate has remained stubbornly high over the past couple of weeks. Tuesday’s numbers increased the seven-day rolling average to 245 new cases per 100,000 from 241 on Monday.

The state’s rate stayed at 108 and has been less than half of Southwest Virginia’s rate since mid-September.

And since that time, Southwest Virginia has reported 57.7 new COVID deaths per 100,000 compared to 21.9 statewide, and 116.4 new hospitalizations per 100,000 to 44.5 statewide.

Breanne Forbes Hubbard

Forbes Hubbard said more people with underlying conditions helps explain the hospitalization and death rates being even more proportionately higher than the case rates.

“We know that we have more chronic health problems in this part of the state so people are more susceptible to poor outcomes from COVID, and with delta we’ve just seen some people are getting sicker,” she said.

But a low vaccination rate is another factor, she said. As of Tuesday, just 43.9% of Southwest Virginians were fully vaccinated, compared to 63% of people statewide.

“Our hospitalization numbers are higher, and of course that does concern us,” Forbes Hubbard said.

“These are largely folks that are unvaccinated and it continues to be a concern that we have people hospitalized when they don’t need to be, because this is a vaccine-preventable disease now.”

RELATED: FDA paves way for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations in young kids 

Washington and Smyth counties rank first and second among Virginia’s 95 counties for hospitalizations per 100,000 over the course of the pandemic.

“What we really hope is that folks see that the vaccine is the better course here,” said Forbes Hubbard, whose district includes Washington and Smyth counties.

“It’s better to be vaccinated than not vaccinated; you’re going to stay healthier; you’re going to stay out of the hospital; you’re less likely to die.”

Statewide, VDH reported 690,185 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth on Nov. 2.

According to VDH, the total number of confirmed and probable cases is 929,244.

VDH reports there have been 11,769 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths across the state.

Below is a complete breakdown of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Southwest Virginia over the past three days.

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. – 2,279 cases / 174 hospitalizations / 47 deaths (3 new cases)
Buchanan County – 2,458 cases / 146 hospitalizations / 63 deaths (22 new cases, 3 new hospitalizations, 2 new deaths)
Dickenson County – 1,676 cases / 59 hospitalizations / 27 deaths (-4 new cases)
Lee County – 3,726 cases / 139 hospitalizations / 60 deaths (0 new cases)
Norton – 580 cases / 29 hospitalizations / 13 deaths (3 new cases)
Russell County – 3,812 cases / 158 hospitalizations / 64 deaths (5 new cases, 1 new death)
Scott County – 3,188 cases / 166 hospitalizations / 78 deaths (13 new cases, 1 new hospitalization, 1 new death)
Smyth County – 4,928 cases / 316 hospitalizations / 119 deaths (7 new cases, 6 new hospitalizations, 1 new death)
Tazewell County – 5,740 cases / 221 hospitalizations / 107 deaths (2 new cases, 1 new death)
Washington County, Va. – 7,640 cases / 607 hospitalizations / 148 deaths (23 new cases, 2 new hospitalizations)
Wise County – 5,409 cases / 230 hospitalizations / 129 deaths (19 new cases, 1 new hospitalization)

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

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