RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WFXR) — Many Virginians who tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic were contacted by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), who then worked to notify their close contacts. Now, the VDH are stopping those efforts and adjusting their response to the virus.

According to a VDH statement released on Tuesday, Jan. 25, the omicron variant is spreading so quickly that the department can no longer track every single case. The spike in cases has put a strain on Virginia’s health care system.

VDH data shows that the Commonwealth has seen more than 1.49 million cases confirmed and probable coronavirus cases as of Tuesday.

Between December 2021 and mid-January 2022, Virginia’s COVID-19 cases hit their largest peak so far, with the 10 largest cases of the entire pandemic taking place over the course of three weeks:

  1. 26,175 new cases on Jan. 8, 2022
  2. 19,836 new cases on Jan. 12, 2022
  3. 19,506 new cases on Jan. 2, 2022
  4. 18,942 new cases on Jan. 13, 2022
  5. 18,309 new cases on Jan. 7, 2022
  6. 18,054 new cases on Jan. 16, 2022
  7. 17,618 new cases on Dec. 31, 2021
  8. 17,219 new cases on Jan. 14, 2022
  9. 17,027 new cases on Jan. 21, 2022
  10. 16,842 new cases on Jan. 15, 2022

Since September 2020, the VDH says public health staff have investigated more than 750,000 COVID-19 cases; notified more than 400,000 close contacts; and responded to more than 6,500 outbreaks.

The department now plans to prioritize responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, congregate settings, healthcare settings, and other high-risk settings. Meanwhile, follow-up efforts will focus on individuals at the highest risk for negative health effects from the virus.

As for schools, which are seeing major changes to masking rules, the VDH says it will keep helping them with coronavirus prevention strategies.

“COVID-19 continues to spread across the Commonwealth in high volumes, and Virginians should act  quickly when illness is suspected. Please get tested, stay home when you are infectious, and notify your contacts,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH.

The VDH website includes guidance on how individuals can notify their close contacts if they think they may have COVID-19. In addition, people who test positive for the virus can still use Virginia’s COVIDWISE app as a tool to anonymously notify those who may have been exposed.

According to the VDH, many vaccinated people who have gotten infected by the omicron variant have reported mild illnesses. However, that does not erase the potential for more severe cases. Virginia’s seven-day moving average for COVID-19 deaths is 25.7 people.

In order to protect yourself from serious illness or hospitalization, your are encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including your booster shot, if you are eligible.

“Do it for yourself, your family, and your community, including the health care workers we depend on to be there when we truly need emergency care,” the VDH stated.