This week’s surge of COVID-19 cases in Halifax County can be traced back to residents gathering in a wide variety of settings and not practicing the basic pandemic prevention methods.
After a spike of COVID-19 cases this week, the county is averaging about 23 new infections a day, and experts fear those numbers will keep increasing.
That compares to a previous high of 15 daily cases in November.
“The spike in cases is due to community spread,” Brookie Crawford, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health, wrote in an email to The Gazette.
On Wednesday, the state set a daily caseload record of 5,387. Thursday’s new cases were only eight shy of that record.
It’s a trend that’s reaching every part of the commonwealth, including Halifax County. On Tuesday, 64 new cases — a record — of the illness caused by the novel coronavirus were added to Halifax’s logs. On Wednesday, 42 people reported testing positive.
Thursday’s figure was down slightly to only 19 new cases.
That means in three days, 125 new cases have been reported.
While sometimes erratic, the daily accelerating numbers come after health experts warned of a surge following holiday gatherings.
In a Wednesday briefing, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam referenced a University of Virginia model that suggests cases will continue rising through Friday.
The health department has seen a continuous rise in cases, beginning with Halloween and concatenating with each holiday since, Crawford said.
The major factor to determine if numbers keep climbing is “dependent on people’s willingness to practice the prevention basics,” she said.
“We all have a duty to protect ourselves and those around us,” Crawford wrote in an email. “We must continue to stay home as much as possible, wear face coverings, maintain social distancing, and practice hand hygiene to help manage transmission of the virus. This is how we all work together to save lives.”
If someone is sick with COVID-19 or simply thinks they may have the illness, they should stay home and separate from other people in the house.
If someone had contact with a person who’s tested positive for COVID-19, that person should stay home — quarantine — for 14 days, Crawford said.
Halifax County’s official COVID-19 death toll increased to 42 on Thursday. It’s not clear if the newly recorded fatalities are from an outbreak at a South Boston long-term care facility that claimed 37 lives.
The health department only provides general demographics on deaths. Compounding that, Halifax County’s data is lumped in with Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties.
Of the two COVID-19 deaths listed on Thursday for Halifax County both were women. One was in her 50s and the other was 80 or older.
Beyond those data points, very little is known to the public when someone dies of COVID-19. The date of death also is a mystery. Health officials must wait to receive a death certificate before recording the information in an online database. That process can take weeks.
Deaths, just like cases, are assigned to a person’s official place of residence.