COVID-19 Cases Jump Again

COVID-19 Cases Jump Again

MEMBERS of the Virginia National Guard administer COVID-19 tests outside of the Stonebridge Center at Natural Bridge Tuesday afternoon. (Carolyn Bradley photo)

Confirmed Cases Reach 136 In Area

As the month of July ends, confirmed coronavirus cases in the Rockbridge area continue to rise sharply.

As of yesterday, the Virginia Department of Health reported that Rockbridge area has a total of 137 cases, up 36 from 101 last week. Rockbridge County went from 47 cases last week to 62 yesterday, while Lexington went from 23 cases last week to 28 yesterday, and Buena Vista went from 31 cases last week to 47 yesterday.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations have also increased, with five total, after three were listed for last week. Lexington had one hospitalization, the same as last week, while Buena Vista was up from two to three hospitalizations, and Rockbridge County went from zero to one hospitalization.

Kevin Moore, a member of the local coronavirus emergency management team, reported yesterday that the increase in the number of cases is concerning, though not unexpected as the state has started to reopen this summer.

He said he had been told early last week by the VDH that of the 100-plus people who by then had tested positive in the Rockbridge area since March, that approximately 30 or so were “active cases.” That number, he said, will likely rise this week, although by how much is uncertain because some of the previous cases may no longer be active.

He was reporting from outside of the Stonebridge Center at Natural Bridge Station where a drive-thru free COVID-19 testing event was taking place. It was scheduled after the recent increase in local cases, and was the fifth to be held in the area.

The event was originally to have been by-appointment only for those who believe they have symptoms or may have come into contact with someone who had tested positive. However, it was opened up to those without appointments as well.

About 30 had made appointments to be tested, he said. Midway through the testing, he said, the attendance had been steady. Final numbers were not available by press time.

On a state level, numbers also continue to rise, with the statewide positive test rate now at 7.5 percent.

In his press conference yesterday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam attributed some of the increase in cases around the state to an increase in testing. Several weeks ago, the state aimed to administer 10,000 tests a day, but the state now averages around 17,000 to 20,000, Northam said.

Northam focused on restrictions to be placed on the Hampton Roads area, where positive tests ranged in localities from from 6.3 to 16.9 percent, and only a handful of health districts are reporting rates lower than 5 percent, according to the VDH.

Northam issued an executive order for the Hampton Roads area, stating that restaurants will have to stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. and close at midnight starting Friday. Restaurants will also have to limit the number of patrons allowed for indoor dining to 50 percent capacity. All gatherings will also be reduced from 250 people to 50. Northam expects the new restrictions will remain in place for at least two to three weeks based on the incubation period for COVID-19, which is usually six to 10 days but can be up to 14 days. If numbers in Hampton Roads start to trend down, Northam said, he will lift the guidelines “as soon as we can.”