Weekly report

Under a revised model from the University of Virginia, the Southside Health District is in a slow growth phase, meaning there is sustained growth in cases.

On the same day Halifax County added two additional deaths from COVID-19, it also had the largest single-day jump in cases.

In Saturday’s data report from the Virginia Department of Health, the county recorded 11 new cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus. The report also listed two new deaths bringing the total to four.

It’s not clear when the deaths occurred since health officials have noted a lag in entering data into an online database. The health department also does not comment on individual deaths.

Across the Southside Health District — an area that includes Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties — 39 people have died of COVID-19. Of those, 13 were 80 or over; 17 were in the 70-79-age range; eight were 60-69; and one was 50-59. Twenty-one of the deaths occurred in women.

The majority of those deaths were in Mecklenburg County, the center of two outbreaks at nursing homes.

By Sunday, Halifax County’s total virus caseload was 234, an increase of 29 in one week. That total is still far lower than any other locality in Southern Virginia. Neighboring Pittsylvania County had 855 cases as of Sunday, and Danville reached 675. Henry County has the most COVID-19 cases in Southside with 912 on Sunday.

State model data

Under a revised model from the University of Virginia, the Southside Health District is in a slow growth phase, meaning there is sustained growth in cases. Previously the UVA COVID-19 model only classified areas as being in a surge. The new weekly report, issued Friday by the Virginia Department of Health, redefines surge areas.

Halifax County briefly was included in a surge area, but that has since abated, the model shows. However, Friday’s update clarifies that just because an area is no longer seeing a surge, that doesn’t mean the number of new cases has dropped.

The model uses a formula that detects a rapid rise in cases in a week, specifically an increase of at least 2.5 per 100,000 population.

The four new surge area designations are:

• Declining: Sustained decreases following a recent peak

• Plateau: Steady rate increase with little trends up or down

• Slow growth: Sustained growth not rapid enough to be considered a surge

• Surge: Experiencing a rapid growth of cases.

While overall cases have plateaued in the commonwealth, two health districts in Virginia are in a surge, and eight are showing slow growth.

The UVa model increases the peak potential compared to last week’s report. Currently weekly cases in Virginia could rise to about 10,980 on a low-end projection toward the end of October. A potentially higher statewide surge would peak at about 14,100 cases per week. By comparison, the state has seen about 7,000 new cases in the last week.

UVa officials are quick to point out the projections are only designed to show what could happen based on current trends and are not an indicator of what will occur, a stance also echoed by numerous health officials.

Many health leaders believe this Labor Day weekend could set the trajectory of cases for the fall. Normally an end-of-season social celebration with backyard barbecues, picnics and overall large gatherings, without masks or social distancing, officials worry a surge may occur. In addition, fall brings cooler weather and that in turn drives more people indoors, the perfect spreading ground for the coronavirus. On top of that, flu season is just around the corner.

National trends

Across the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a rolling seven-day average of 40,000 COVID-19 cases. On Saturday, there were 49,000 new cases in the United States. Deaths nationwide are averaging between 900 and 1,000 per day. On Saturday, the CDC reported more than 187,000 deaths.

The latest model from the University of Washington estimates 410,000 deaths by Jan. 1 from COVID-19. That’s an increase in previous projections.

That hike is due in part to a likely seasonal rise in COVID-19 cases in the Northern Hemisphere, the report states. So far, COVID-19 has followed seasonal patterns similar to pneumonia, and if that correlation continues to hold, northern countries can anticipate more cases in the late fall and winter months.

“People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations, the operation responsible for the model.