The latest models from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute show dropping cases in the coming month under most situations. However, if another variant takes hold, cases could rise again.
Halifax County has yet to break free from a high community level for COVID-19 since moving into the designation in late May.
The level — defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — carries a recommendation for wearing masks in indoor public settings, a pandemic precaution all but eliminated in today’s back-to-normal lifestyle.
Official cases have declined in Halifax County since the middle of the month, averaging about eight new COVID-19 reports a day. That figure is all but assured to be a vast undercount since it only reports results from medical facilities and pharmacies.
Positive results from at-home kits aren’t reported to the Virginia Department of Health. The University of Virginia now believes that for every COVID-19 case officially recorded in the database, another 16 go unreported.
Some nearby regions — like Danville and Pittsylvania County — are experiencing a bump in daily virus cases.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased over the last few days. As of Monday, Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital was treating seven patients for the virus compared to only about two a week ago. Across the state, hospitalizations are holding steady under 800.
Still — even though case rates are high — signs continue to point to an overall decline after a brief surge this summer, according to Friday’s reports from the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute.
Using gauges like wastewater surveillance and urgent-care visits, data shows a flattening or decline in COVID-19.
UVa reports new boosters — specifically designed for the omicron variant — could be available in the next few weeks.
“If uptake is strong, these could have a substantial impact on hospitalization rates throughout the fall and winter seasons,” researchers said.
Right now, the booster is expected to be available for those 12 and older. Those who have not completed a full primary vaccination series — meaning one dose of the Johnson & Johnson version or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — will need to do so before receiving the new booster, according to UVa.
The new boosters — called a bivalent vaccine — targets two omicron strains which are very different than the original, wild-type strain targeted by the primary series vaccines.
In its continuing effort to project what’s next in the pandemic, the team at UVa is factoring scenarios based on the the impact of the new boosters.
“Even though protection provided by vaccination and previous infection have already reduced hospitalization rates, a new booster campaign beginning in early September may reduce severe outcomes by 50%, keeping about 11,500 Virginians out of the hospital compared to a scenario without boosters,” researchers wrote in the report. “Even a later booster campaign would have a significant impact, preventing over 8,000 hospitalizations.”
Overall, cases may stay low heading into the winter months unless a new variant takes hold.
“As always, Virginia’s health is in our hands,” the researchers said.