The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released new COVID-19 guidelines that suggest precautionary levels based on number of cases, hospitalizations and hospital capacity. These measurements determine whether a community is at a low, medium, or high level.
At the low level, there are low amounts of serious illness, and the CDC recommends people stay up to date with vaccinations and take a test if they experience symptoms.
At an intermediate level, there is more significant disease and spread, so those who are immunocompromised can choose to wear a mask or take extra precautions. Low-level guidance also still applies.
At a high level, hospitals are at risk of being overburdened, and masks are recommended for everyone indoors and in schools.
The CDC updates county levels every Thursday. Each county in the Roanoke and New River valleys is considered to have a high transmission level. Roanoke is at an intermediate level.
The low-level Virginia counties are concentrated in the northern and eastern parts of the state.
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New River Health District Director Noelle Bissell said the area’s transmission speed is improving. New River Valley and the surrounding areas lagged behind more populated regions of the state during the rise, and therefore Southwest Virginia will also lag behind as cases fall.
Virginia reported 9,281 new COVID-19 infections over the past week, bringing the total number during the pandemic to 1,645,791, the Virginia Department of Health reported Friday.
Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts director Cynthia Morrow reported on Tuesday that the number of cases in her region is the lowest it has been since August and the number of admissions it has been since November before the omicron rise .
“Our case numbers continue to fall,” Morrow said. “We have fewer than 400 cases reported in the last week, and we know, of course, that there are limitations to this data, but we are certainly heading in the right direction. In addition, our hospitalization rates are also much lower. As predicted, the situation will be still much better in terms of COVID-19. ”
The state reported 47,509 total admissions since the pandemic began, though the VDH website notes that admissions are underrepresented.
Virginia’s near southwestern region, which includes hospitals from Lynchburg to Roanoke Valley, had 143 COVID-19 patients admitted as of Friday, including 20 on intensive care. One week ago, there had been 189 COVID-19 patients admitted to the region, of which 44 were in intensive care units.
Virginia reported 419 new virus-related deaths over the past seven days, a total of 18,955 since the start of the pandemic. Last week, the state had 520 virus-related deaths.
As of Friday, 82% of Virginia’s adult population had been fully vaccinated.
Everyone 5 years of age or older has been approved to receive a vaccine. People can find and make vaccine appointments at vaccinate.virgina.gov or by calling 877-829-4682.
“While we can relax our mitigation strategies today, we need to be open and realistic about the fact that this may change again if another variant that is more virulent emerges,” Morrow said. “We need to have humility when we look at COVID-19 and what it has done and what it has the potential to do if new varieties emerge. We can not let our guard down, but we can hopefully enjoy a spring with much less worry about this monster of a virus. ”