Coronavirus shifts into growth mode throughout Virginia

If you’re watching the coronavirus pandemic by the numbers for signs of improvement, you could get whiplash from one week to the next.

Coming off a brief period in which no health district was surging in new infections, Virginia’s caseload appeared to be receding while other states across the country were headed down the opposite path.

Now all but the northern part of the state is having an upward trajectory, based on data collected by the Virginia Department of Health. In Hampton Roads, slow growth was happening in Hampton, on the peninsula and in Western Tidewater.

Fresh off his own mild bout of the coronavirus, Gov. Ralph Northam returned to public business last week, with a reminder to Virginians to stay vigilant. At a press briefing Tuesday, he urged residents to continue wearing masks around other people, washing hands and avoiding crowds where people are closer than six feet apart.

“Now is not a time to get complacent,” Northam said.

Public health officials worry that as colder weather takes hold and the days get shorter, outdoor socializing will become more difficult and people will seek activities indoors.

“It’s going to feel hard to keep doing the right things, but I know that we can stay strong and get through this winter, continuing to make the right choices,” he said.

If the current trend continues, it could mean a peak in cases the week before Thanksgiving, according to a new analysis by The University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute, which is partnering with the health department to offer data-based COVID-19 projections.

But public health experts caution that these predictions are always changing with new information, and even slight differences in people’s behavior could alter the course of the pandemic.

In Hampton Roads, 16 people died last week, a 30% decline from the death tally reported the week prior. Of those fatalities, six were in Virginia Beach; two each were in Norfolk, Hampton and Isle of Wight; and one each was in Portsmouth, Gloucester, Chesapeake and Franklin.

As of Friday, there had been a total of 154,126 confirmed cases in Virginia and 3,408 deaths. Over the previous two weeks, nasal swab tests have come back positive at a rate of 4.8%. About 2.3 million tests have been given statewide.

The United States’ case tally rose to 8 million last week with 217,800 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In the world, nearly 1.1 million have died of the virus, and there have been 39 million cases.

The statewide weekly incidence of the virus rose from 9.8 out of 100,000 people to 12 out of 100,000 people, according to Virginia public health officials, though it remains below the national average, which currently sits at 19.6. The incidence rate is a measure of the frequency that a new illness occurs in a community over a period of time.

During the past week, Virginia Beach had the most new cases, with another 269 confirmed positive, according to the state

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