Three Rivers Pandemic Update 08/09/2021

           

Three Rivers Pandemic Update                                               08/09/2021

 

Pandemic Status: The United States is in a pandemic surge, driven by the Delta variant.  Three Rivers cases are rising.

  • The Delta COVID 19 variant has become dominant in the United States; the current case rate in the US is over 120,000/day 7 day rolling average according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.   Almost every state is reporting increasing case counts.
  • Virginia is increasing in new case rates; currently we are over 1370/day 7 day average. 
  • Three Rivers is also increasing; we had 234 new cases in Three Rivers last week, up from 163 the week before.
  • About 73.2% of the population over 18 has received at least one dose.   In Three Rivers, about 62.3% of our population over age 18 has received at least one dose.  Over 82% of our Three Rivers residents aged 65+ have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
  • Across Virginia, there are an average of 13,400 vaccine doses administered currently.  In Three Rivers, we are administering an average of 220 doses per day, an increase from less than 100 doses per day several weeks ago.
  • A map showing indicators of community spread can be found here:  https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view

Everyone age 12 and older is now eligible for vaccination in Virginia.  The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in adolescents age 12-17.  Twelve to seventeen year olds must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, unless the vaccination is offered in schools while they are in session.  Sites operated by the Virginia Department of Health require the parent or guardian to verbally confirm a minor’s date of birth; however, other providers may require additional proof of age.  It is recommended that you check with the facility that is offering the vaccination about requirements for proof of age.  Please visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA to find vaccination opportunities.

    • U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a Surgeon General's Advisory in July 2021 to warn the American public about the urgent threat of health misinformation. Health misinformation, including disinformation, has threatened the U.S. response to COVID-19 and continues to prevent many Americans from getting vaccinated, which is prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk. The advisory lays out how the nation can confront health misinformation by helping individuals, families, and communities better identify and limit its spread, and issues a number of ways institutions in education, media, medicine, research, and government stakeholders can approach this issue.
    • If you have doubts or questions about COVID 19 vaccination, consult with your health care provider to consider the facts they tell you and to make a decision whether or not you will take the vaccine.  To help you form an opinion, please consult credible authorities; the CDC and the World Health Organization are great sources of information.  Professional societies like the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians are also good.  The information available through any of these organizations is based on scientific evidence and best scientific judgement.  Other sources, such as universities and major health care organizations (Mayo Clinic for example), are also trustworthy.  Here are links to informative information about vaccine myths and facts:

Virus and Vaccine Update

    • The COVID 19 virus continues to genetically drift.  The variant from India (B.1.617.2, also known as the Delta variant) is much more transmissible than other variants and is now dominant in the United States.  The Delta variant is responsible for the vast majority of COVID 19 disease in Virginia.
    • The Delta variant generates over 1000 times the viral load of previous variants, making it much more contagious.  It is specifically causing more hospitalizations and untoward health outcomes among unvaccinated people, including those who are younger.  We are also seeing numbers of breakthrough infections among vaccinated people at higher rates than we have previously seen.  Recent evidence strongly indicates the Delta variant can be transmitted to others by those experiencing a breakthrough infection. 
    • Our vaccines are highly effective in preventing serious disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID 19 infection.  According to VDH data, Over 97.3% of persons hospitalized with COVID 19 currently are not fully vaccinated.  Fully vaccinated people are highly unlikely to experience severe disease, hospitalization, or death from the Delta variant of COVID 19.
    • Health officials and vaccine manufacturers are in discussion concerning the need for a booster shot campaign.  At this point there is not enough evidence for the CDC and FDA to recommend booster vaccinations, although more authorities are discussing a possible booster shot for persons aged 65 (and older) as well as immunocompromised individuals.    
    • We are in a race to vaccinate people as fast as we can to keep case levels as low as possible and limit variant evolution. The higher the case levels in the population, the more opportunity exists for the virus to continue to evolve.
    •  The VDH has established a COVID 19 Variants of Concern Dashboard.  The dashboard can be accessed here:  https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-data-insights/variants-of-concern/
    • The VDH has also established a COVID 19 Cases by Vaccination Status dashboard, which can be found here:  https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-data-insights/covid-19-cases-by-vaccination-status/
    • All three vaccine types in use in the United States (Moderna, Pfizer, and Janssen) are available across the Commonwealth.  All of them are very effective in preventing serious and critical COVID 19 disease, and almost eliminate the risk of hospitalization and death.  We recommend vaccination for everyone eligible in the strongest possible terms.

 

Current COVID 19 precautionary measures

 

  • The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Declaration of Emergency remains in effect. 
  • Individuals who are not yet fully vaccinated should continue wearing a mask, practice physical distancing, and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces in accordance with the CDC’s Guidance for Unvaccinated People, which can be found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.  This is especially important with the increasing prevalence of the Delta COVID 19 variant.
  • The CDC has changed recommendations for fully vaccinated people. This is due to the emergence of the Delta variant, which is much more transmissible than other COVID 19 types.  The CDC recommends:
    • Fully vaccinated people should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
    • Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated.
    • Fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and to wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
    • The CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people can be found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
  • All individuals in healthcare settings, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters, should mask regardless of vaccination status.         
  • Governor Northam issued Executive Directive 18 on August 3rd to require vaccinations for more than 120,000 state employees. Employees who do not show proof of vaccination by September 1 must get tested for COVID-19 weekly and show proof of negative test results. Other public and private employers are also encouraged to require vaccination to protect their employees and customers.
  • Virginia’s law against covering the face was suspended or “waived” during the Governor’s Declaration of Emergency. The law was intended to prohibit people from wearing a mask in order to hide their identity. This law should not discourage anyone from wearing a mask for the purpose of protecting themselves and others from illness. There is no legal barrier to wearing masks to protect oneself and others from the virus, nor should anyone be penalized for doing so. While the law prohibits wearing a mask when the purpose for wearing the mask is to conceal one’s identity, it does not prohibit wearing masks when the purpose for doing so is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness or for protection from exposure to infectious diseases.

COVID 19 Vaccine Safety

  • The COVID 19 vaccines are among the best and safest vaccines ever developed.  As with all vaccines and medications, there are potential adverse effects.  All these adverse events following vaccination are extremely rare, and the risk of COVID 19 disease far exceeds the risk of any of the adverse events that have been reported.  Health authorities in the Unites States agree that:

 The vaccines are safe and effective, and they prevent COVID-19 illness. They will help protect you and your family and keep your community safe. We strongly encourage everyone age 12 and older who are eligible to receive the vaccine under Emergency Use Authorization to get vaccinated, as the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any harm. Especially with the troubling Delta variant increasingly circulating, and more readily impacting younger people, the risks of being unvaccinated are far greater than any rare side effects from the vaccines. If you get COVID-19, you could get severely ill and be hospitalized or even die. Even if your infection is mild, you or your child could face long-term symptoms following COVID-19 infection such as neurological problems or diminished lung function.

How to volunteer with the Three Rivers Health District

    • The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), our volunteers, are absolutely critical to our efforts at all times.  We are extremely grateful for our volunteers, we could not carry on this pandemic mitigation effort without them.
    • If you are interested in becoming an MRC volunteer, or have family or friends that are interested, please visit www.vamrc.org to learn more.
    • If you have questions about the process, please reach out to the Three Rivers Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator at 804-758-2381. We welcome your help and participation in the fight against COVID 19, and in all other health department missions.

Testing, pandemic containment efforts

    • COVID 19 testing will remain very important in the coming months.  We have resumed community testing in conjunction with our continued vaccination outreach.
    • Our containment team is investigating all new cases with contact tracing of all high risk exposures.  These activities will be very important to keep outbreaks from occurring and to keep new cases at a minimum, especially with increasing prevalence of the Delta variant.

 

K-12 Update      

  • The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) are partnering to launch a new COVID-19 testing program for the 2021 - 2022 school year, Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA).  ViSSTA will provide testing vendors, supplies, and staffing to support an end-to-end COVID-19 testing experience with the goal of maximizing resources available to schools to navigate full in-person instruction in the fall and minimizing added responsibilities to existing school staff.  More details are available at the VDH K-12 testing website here:  https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/k-12-testing/
  • The CDC published revised guidance for COVID 19 prevention in Child Care and K-12 settings, which can be found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html
  • The VDH and VDOE have published Interim Guidance to COVID 19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools, which can be found herehttps://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/182/2021/03/Interim-Guidance-to-K-12-School-Reopening.pdf
    • Guiding principles are:
      • Students benefit from in-person learning
      • Put education first
      • Focus on prevention
      • Consider community needs
      • Be flexible and innovative
    • Steps to guide decision-making about prevention strategies and school operations are:

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    • Nine Key Prevention Strategies are:

1. Promoting vaccination

2. Consistent and correct use of masks

3. Physical distancing

4. Screening testing

5. Ventilation

6. Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

7. Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities

8. Staying home when sick and getting tested

9. Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine.

  • The CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • SB 1303, which went into effect on July 1, contains the following language: 
    • Each school board shall offer in-person instruction to each student enrolled in the local school division in a public elementary and secondary school for at least the minimum number of required instructional hours and to each student enrolled in the local school division in a public school-based early childhood care and education program for the entirety of the instructional time provided pursuant to such program. For the purposes of this act, each school board shall (i) adopt, implement, and, when appropriate, update specific parameters for the provision of in-person instruction and (ii) provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additional useful links

 

Associated Document