ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, updated the community Tuesday morning on current public health concerns, including the coronavirus pandemic.

Health districts in the Commonwealth are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, but the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) says it is just a slight increase as the case numbers have remained relatively stable here.

On Tuesday, April 26, Morrow stressed that more COVID-19 activity means more risk, saying, “I do think that we have had more activity now than we have had two weeks ago.”

According to VDH experts, two weeks isn’t enough to establish a trend. But over that time, they report that virus case numbers are inching up.

Morrow reported an increase of 169 cases since last week in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, with the majority of those new cases and hospitalizations among individuals who are not fully-vaccinated or boosted.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that more than 97% of virus cases are attributable to the more contagious BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 variants in HSS Region 3, which includes Virginia.

“One of the after-effects of that is that we have a lot more people who have natural immunity,” said Morrow. “Between the vaccination rates and high levels of natural immunity because of the omicron surge, I don’t think we are anywhere near at risk of having that same level of the surge, at least at this point.”

In light of National Immunization Week, she stresses that getting vaccinated now is just as important as it was at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Vaccinations are one of if not the most effective public health tool we’ve ever had,” Morrow said. “Tens of millions of diseases have been prevented and tens of thousands of deaths have been prevented in the last ten years because of our vaccines.”

Health officials say a total of 991 COVID-related deaths have occurred in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts since the start of the pandemic

During Tuesday’s briefing, Morrow also discussed the increasing number of hepatitis A cases. The health districts have seen more than 50 cases in the community since January, mostly among people using needles to inject illegal drugs, as well as the homeless population

According to Morrow, “It is tragic that we have over 50 cases of hepatitis A in our community and we just need to encourage people to look at whether they’re up to date on their vaccinations.”

This past week, the VDH vaccinated more than 750 people against hepatitis A.

Watch the full briefing below.

Health officials say they plan to hold the next briefing on May 17 in order to keep the Roanoke Valley and Alleghany Highlands informed about the latest COVID-19 data, as well as other public health topics.