Holsworth: May 16, 2020, Virginia Covid-19 Update

Editor’s note: Bearing Drift is grateful to Dr. Bob Holsworth for permission to share his daily Virginia coronavirus updates. For more, follow him on Facebook.


May 16, COVID-19 Update, Virginia

1. Hospitalizations Steady, End Week Down by 88

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s (VHHA) report showed that the number of patients in hospitals went from 1511 to 1505 yesterday. There were 104 discharges and 98 estimated new admissions.

For the week, the number of patients in hospitals decreased from 1593 to 1505. Hospital admissions have ranged for the past three weeks between 1400-1625. We have not had two consecutive weeks of a downward trend since VHHA began its reporting. Next week will tell us more about whether the 88 patient decline is a trend or just another bump in the range.

2. No Decline in Case Growth, Deaths Go to More than 1000

While hospitalizations declined this week, confirmed cases moved strongly in the opposite direction. Total cases went from 23,196 to 29,683. In absolute numbers, this was the largest weekly increase in cases since the pandemic began.

In addition, the number of Virginians whose deaths have attributed to COVID-19 increased to 1,002 yesterday. In the past three weeks, we have seen 180-216-175 deaths.

3. Is This Just the Result of More Testing?

This too is a situation that we have seen before. Hospitalizations and severity measures such as patients in ICUs and on ventilators, seem to show that the disease, at worst, is on a long plateau. But the rise in total cases grinds inexorably upward.

The best case interpretation suggests the case rise is primarily a function of increased testing. This may be partially true. Since Mayor Stoney has been able to get testing increased in Richmond, for example, the number of cases has increased by 20% in the last 2 days.

But increased testing is unlikely to tell the entire story. If the explanation was simply more testing, we would likely see relatively consistent growth across the state. This is not what the numbers show.

4. What We Are Seeing

– Huge Disparities among the Large Metros: In particular, the case trends in NOVA and Hampton Roads could not be more divergent. Out of yesterday’s 1,011 cases, for example, 13 were in Hampton Roads communities and 575 in NOVA communities. NOVA is the southern tip of the East Coast disease epicenter and has yet to be controlled.

– Continued Spikes in Close Quarters Facilities: We first noticed this in long-term care facilities which led to a tragic number of deaths as the situation caught Virginia (and most other states) unprepared for the devastation that ensued.

Since then, issues with correctional facilities (simply take a look at the numbers in Buckingham and Richmond counties) and meat processing plants have also led to very large outbreaks. On the Eastern Shore, for example, more than 2% of the population are now confirmed COVID-19 cases.

– Disparate Impact in Communities of Color:

Among reported cases statewide, 44.8% are with individuals who identify as Hispanic or Latino and 22.7% among African-Americans.
Hispanics/Latinos represent 9.9% of the Virginia population and African-Americans 19.9%.

The impact, indeed the visibility of the disease is by no means evenly distributed across regions and groups. It is not surprising that Latinos and African-Americans are telling pollsters in large numbers we should be cautious moving forward.

In the next few weeks and months, Virginians are going to be thinking about how to make workplaces safe, how to open child care facilities, schools, and colleges, and how younger people and older people ought to go about their daily lives without an effective vaccine or treatment. And we’ll be doing so in a context where our perspectives on coping with COVID-19 may differ based on our experiences with the disease so far.

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