Local health expert shares pandemic update as VDH reports more than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases since Friday

Coronavirus

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Numbers from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) on Monday show more than 7,000 Virginians have tested positive for the coronavirus since Friday. This comes the same day the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, “Everyone’s tired. Everyone wants this to be over. No one wants this to be over more than our hospital and health care workers and our public health workers, believe me.”

Dr. Bissell reported on Monday, Aug. 23 that her health district saw 48 hospitalizations due to coronavirus within the last week. That number may not seem high; however, she says that has roughly doubled in a one-week period. She also says positive cases in the New River Health District started trending upward in June, a trend that has been echoed across the Commonwealth.

On Friday, Aug. 20, the VDH reported 734,079 positive COVID-19 cases. On Monday, though, the agency reported 741,160 positive cases. That means 7,081 new people in Virginia tested positive for the virus in just a couple of days.

“I will say that we aren’t seeing the numbers that we saw back in the wintertime when we had our big number of cases,” Dr. Bissell said.

Despite the alarming number of positive COVID-19 cases, Dr. Bissell said, “Our local pharmacies are seeing about twice the number of people requesting the vaccine just last week.”

Health experts hope the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 will reassure those who are reluctant to get the vaccine that it is safe.

“The vaccine started being administered with Pfizer back in December. So we really now have nine months and hundreds of millions of doses for data.” Dr. Bissell added, “I do think that there were a lot of people who were kind of holding out for that full FDA approval because they were thinking that the emergency use authorization was really equivalent experimental, and it’s not.”

Now that the vaccine has been fully approved, Dr. Bissell believes more employers may start mandating the shots for their workers.

“Today, I’m calling more countries, more companies, I should say, to step up vaccine requirements that will reach millions more people,” said President Joe Biden on Monday.

Local health experts expect the area to hit a peak of coronavirus cases at the end of August, but they also expect cases to start tapering off in September.

“The general trend for the Delta variant is that the surge is going to peak over four to six weeks. Again, we expect to see our peak at the end of the month and then we do expect to see a decline in cases over the month of September,” Dr. Bissell said.

At this time, it is unknown if we will begin seeing mass vaccination clinics, but Dr. Bissell says there are plenty of places people can go to get vaccinated.

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