Number of Delta variant cases in southwest Virginia is likely much higher than recorded


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — New data released Friday from the Virginia Department of Health shows the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is continuing to spread through our region.

There are now 25 known cases in southwest Virginia as of Friday, July 23, up from 15 a week ago.

Not all positive COVID-19 tests are sequenced to detect which strain of the virus it is, so the numbers are likely higher.

“The delta variant is more transmissible,” said Breanne Forbes Hubbard, Population Health Manager with the Mount Rogers Health District, “which means it makes more people sick, and it’s more virulent, which means it makes people sicker.”

Forbes Hubbard says PCR tests done at doctors’ offices and health departments are sequenced to see which strain they are, but at-home and rapid tests are not, so there’s an undercount.

“Absolutely, our gut feeling is there’s definitely more than 25 in the region,” said Forbes Hubbard. “It’s spreading rapidly through the community, and it’s having a greater impact on folks, especially younger people in their 20s or 30s who weren’t maybe getting as sick before are now getting very sick from the Delta variant.”

Dr. Chris Lewis with Centra in Lynchburg told WFXR News on Monday, July 19 that the youngest hospitalized COVID patient at Lynchburg General at the time was only 29.

Lewis says getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent this from spreading further and bringing back lockdowns and mask mandates.

“The more we get folks vaccinated,” said Lewis, “the less room COVID has to move around in our society, to continue to infect folks, to continue to frankly mutate over time, and then put us at risk of needing to step backward and lose some of these freedoms we’ve really enjoyed and gotten used to.”

“Absolutely,” said Forbes Hubbard, when asked about Lewis’s assessment. “The more people that we have vaccinated, the more community protection we have, and the less likely we will be to need to go back into lockdowns or mask mandates.”

Forbes Hubbard says the Delta variant isn’t slowing down.

“It’s going to continue to spread. It’s going to continue, it’s going to be the dominant strain.”

She says we might be in the “calm before the storm” right now. She anticipates that infections will spike again in the fall as people gather indoors more and students return to school.

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