RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) — Southwest Virginia’s overall COVID case spread rate is below the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) high level after cases declined by nearly 50% in the week to Thursday, data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) show.

The nine-county region’s rolling seven-day average is now at 81 for 100,000 population, the lowest it has been since August. A week ago it was 152.

Southwest Virginia’s COVID-19 community spread rate is below 100 for the first time in months.

However, yesterday’s weekly CDC community levels update showed that the only three of Virginia’s 95 counties that still had a “community level” considered high were Dickinson, Wise and Lee counties. All are part of Southwest Virginia.

The CDC recently rolled out its community level designation in place of the former community spread metric based just on COVID case rates. The new CDC guidance also factors in COVID hospitalization and hospital capacity.

Numbers have been dropping rapidly around the country including in Southwest Virginia. The region still has higher rates than the state, but those have drawn much closer over the past few weeks.

One flagging negative impact of the Omicron variant surge continues to show up in deaths within the region, as those are reported typically two to three weeks after they occur. Southwest Virginia actually saw more deaths between March 11-17 — 24 deaths — than it did the previous week, when 19 were recorded.

COVID test positivity percentage around the area also continues to drop with the region now seeing those levels well below 10% where they had been in the 30s and even the 40s during the height of the Omicron surge.