Health department officials are looking into a rise of COVID-19 cases after Halifax County set a single-day record the same day it crossed the 500-mark milestone.
Halifax added 16 new cases of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus on Monday. The previous record of 14 cases in a day was set on Sept. 9.
“We have seen a recent uptick in cases across the region,” said Krysta Luzynski, an epidemiologist with the Southside Health District that included Halifax County. “We are currently investigating into the cause for the recent uptick.”
The health department updates data online by about 10 a.m. each day based on information received the previous day by 5 p.m.
As of Tuesday, out of a total of 515 cases in Halifax County, 154 have been added this month alone. Simply put — even with four days left in October — more COVID-19 infections have surfaced this month than any other.
Across the Southside Health District, no new outbreaks have been reported to the online dashboard administered by the Virginia Department of Health. Also, cases associated with established outbreaks have remained steady for the last two weeks.
The University of Virginia COVID-19 Model shifted the Southside Health District — an area that includes Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties — into a declining classification late last week. That was before three days of double-digit increases Saturday-Monday in Halifax.
That model also predicts an increase in statewide cases by December or January depending on how large the surge will be.
“National and state trends are concerning as we enter the holiday season, heralding colder weather and increased travel,” researchers wrote in the UVa report released Friday.
Seven health districts are experiencing surges throughout Virginia.
Across the nation, cases soared past a threshold set with a summer surge. More than 80,000 COVID-19 cases were added on Friday and Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven-day average of new cases nationwide is close to 70,000.
That’s higher than the summer spike when late July saw about 66,000 cases a day.
Deaths across the nation are also edging up slightly with about 800 reported a day.
“When you factor in holidays that are likely to bring together people who are not normally within the same space, I would imagine this trend will continue,” Luzynski said of increasing cases in the coming months.
Luzynski said when making decisions about going to public spaces or attending social events, it’s important to think about the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Those factors include the ability to wear a mask, an individual’s risk for developing severe COVID-19, and whether a person lives with someone at higher risk for developing severe illness.
The health department also recognizes that Halloween represents what some see as an exciting and fun time of the year for children and adults alike. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, this season will look different.
Residents can protect themselves from COVID-19 by avoiding people who live outside of their household, wearing a mask in public settings, frequently washing hands and staying 6 feet apart from each other.
People at higher risk for illness may choose not to participate in Halloween festivities this year, health officials said.
Events that involve large gatherings of individuals — parties and haunted houses — can increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and are not recommended.