ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) says COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the decline, but lower numbers do not mean you should ignore pandemic restrictions, especially if you live in one of the many localities around the Commonwealth with higher virus transmission rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), virus transmission rates are still ranked at ‘medium’ or ‘high’ levels at this time in the following southwest and central Virginia localities:

  • Localities with ‘medium’ COVID-19 community levels:
    • Amherst County
    • Bath County
    • Bedford County
    • Bland County
    • Buena Vista
    • Carroll County
    • Charlotte County
    • Covington
    • Craig County
    • Danville
    • Floyd County
    • Franklin County
    • Henry County
    • Lexington
    • Pittsylvania County
    • Radford
    • Roanoke City
    • Salem
    • Wythe County
  • Localities with ‘high’ COVID-19 community levels:
    • Appomattox County
    • Botetourt County
    • Campbell County
    • Galax
    • Grayson County
    • Halifax County
    • Lynchburg
    • Roanoke County
The CDC says the COVID-19 Community Levels were calculated on June 9, 2022. New COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population (7-day total) are calculated using data from June 2, 2022 through June 8, 2022. (Photo courtesy: CDC)

“If you’re going to be getting together with people outside your home and you do have people who are more vulnerable, it would be a great idea to move that activity outside where there’s better ventilation, and people should continue to wear a mask if they’re gathering indoors with people who are vulnerable,” said Christie Wills, communications officer for the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts.

According to Wills, the VDH believes many coronavirus cases have gone unaccounted for, so officials are focusing more on hospitalizations.

“Overall, the metrics that we look at, in addition to cases, is hospitalizations, and hospitalizations are down overall,” Wills explained. “There’s still a concern for COVID. People need to take it seriously, but again it’s people with those underlying risk factors that we’re most concerned about.”

She adds that it’ll be important to look after people who have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes; people with chronic health issues; and people who are more vulnerable, like those over the age of 65.

VDH public health specialist Dr. Brooke Rossheim tells WFXR News that health officials will be following new COVID-19 variants closely over the course of the summer.

“We are looking to see what new variants are going to show up because that’s going to be key. We are seeing BA.4 and BA.5 show up on the radar. We want to see what happens with them. We want to see how our vaccines are working against them,” he said.

Due to the likelihood of new coronavirus variants, Rossheim urges you not to let your guard down against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the CDC recommend that residents who live in areas with ‘medium’ or ‘high’ virus transmission levels take the following actions:

  • Localities with ‘medium’ COVID-19 community levels:
    • If you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provided about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions.
    • Stay up to date with COVID vaccines.
    • Get tested if you have symptoms.
  • Localities with ‘high’ COVID-19 community levels:
    • Wear a mask in public indoor settings.
    • Stay up to date with coronavirus vaccines.
    • Get tested if you have symptoms of the virus.
    • Additional precautions may be needed for people at high risk for severe illness.

If you’re planning on taking a summer vacation anywhere in the U.S. in the near future, you can check out your destination’s coronavirus risk level on the CDC’s website.