COVID-19

Halifax County is now averaging about nine new COVID-19 cases per day, an increase from just five a week ago. In fact, 44 cases were added to the database from Wednesday to Friday. The health department does not update dashboards on the weekend.

Just days before Thanksgiving travelers hit the road — some for the first time in two years because of the pandemic — Halifax County’s downward infection track has reversed course.

Other areas of Southside and the entire state of Virginia saw daily caseloads creep up last week for the first time since September.

“As the weather turns cold, people are spending more time indoors, in closer spaces, for longer periods,” said Brookie Crawford, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health. “And with the approaching holidays — when people tend to gather — we expect these numbers to increase.”

Halifax County is now averaging about nine new COVID-19 cases per day, an increase from just five a week ago. In fact, 44 cases were added to the database from Wednesday to Friday. The health department does not update dashboards on the weekend.

Holiday get togethers are sure to drive the numbers up further, but Crawford said — as of now — the health department doesn’t believe the numbers will reach the record highs of last year.

“The more people that get vaccinated, the lower those numbers stay,” she said Friday.

Inoculation numbers have slowly climbed in Halifax County. As of Saturday, 49% of the population — including children — were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s still well short of the state average of 64%.

Boosters

More and more Halifax County residents appear to be seeking out booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

On Wednesday, at a vaccine clinic at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston 82 people rolled up their sleeves for a vaccine. Of those, 74 were booster shots.

“The clinic at SVHEC was well attended with most vaccines administered being boosters,” said Sandie Currie, district vaccine coordinator. “The patients were appreciative as the clinic was conveniently located and accessible.”

On Friday, the CDC authorized — following step with the Food and Drug Administration — booster doses for anyone 18 and older. Previously, only certain groups were eligible for the extra shots of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

The CDC continues to recommend anyone who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine receive a booster at least two months after the first jab.

With Friday’s action, that means about 2.2 million Virginians are now eligible to receive a booster dose. The health department reports 1-in-10 Halifax County residents have already received the extra shot of protection.

“As more scientific data showing the effectiveness of a booster dose comes in, VDH welcomes this move by the CDC and FDA,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccination liaison. “These vaccines are incredibly safe and effective, but no vaccine prevents 100% of illness.”

Protection wanes over time for any vaccine and there’s data showing a benefit when someone gets a booster dose.

“And with the holidays approaching and the weather turning colder, now is the perfect time to get vaccinated if you’re 5 years or older or get a booster dose if fully vaccinated and you’re 18 years or older,” Avula said in a statement.

And with the flu season in full swing, health experts recommend anyone 6 months or older receive an influenza shot. The COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be given at the same time.

“VDH stands ready to provide boosters to any Virginia adult who wants one today,” Avula said. “Supply is not an issue, and there are multiple venues open to you to get your booster: pharmacies, your healthcare provider, your local health department, Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) strategically located around the commonwealth and other community vaccination events.”

Those who are unvaccinated remain at the highest risk of severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. This population remains VDH’s top priority.

To find free vaccines, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA.

Other data

Halifax County also recorded two new virus fatalities last week. So far, 112 residents of Halifax County have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.

“Because people are spending more time indoors, it’s important that they continue to practice mitigation measures like wearing a mask, washing their hands and social distancing whenever possible,” Crawford explained.

Halifax County has yet to break free from the highest risk category for COVID-19 spread as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Saturday, the positivity rate nudged upward to 10%. That figure calculates the number of positive results against the overall tests administered.

It’s used by health experts — combined with other factors — to gauge the state of the pandemic on a locality level. The CDC views any figure above 5% to indicate the virus is spreading uncontrolled in a community.

Local hospitalizations have stayed steady over the last few weeks with about six COVID-19 patients being treated daily at Sentara Halifax Regional Health System, an online dashboard shows.

There were 10 virus cases reported in Halifax County Public Schools last week, a slight rise from previous weeks.