Holsworth: July 15, 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.



1. Hospitalizations Move Down Last Two Days

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s (VHHA) reports for the last two days show a decline in the number of COVID-19 patients after a large spike upwards last week. On Monday, there were 1129 patients in hospitals and today there were 1086. It was good to see a modest reversal it what was a very disturbing trends. Let’s hope that it holds.

2. Cases and Test Positivity Up

There were 801 confirmed cases yesterday and 1084 cases reported today. This compares with 638 and 635 cases for Monday and Tuesday last week.

The 7-day test positivity rate ticked up once again yesterday to 7.2%. Since the 5.8% rate reached 10 days ago, we’ve seen a small but consistent upward creep. Nothing like Florida or Arizona, but we’d much prefer a direction that looks like New York or Massachusetts.

Once again, Hampton Roads has taken over NOVA as the region with the most cases. I am seeing significant case numbers on the Peninsula and on the beachside. When we were seeing 600-800 cases a day in NOVA, Hampton Roads often had less than 50. Today, there were 439 cases in the Hampton Roads communities that I follow and 241 in the NOVA communities.

But having over 1000 cases statewide with 241 in NOVA also indicates how the virus in showing up across the Commonwealth. In the last two days, we’ve had reports of increased cases in Danville, the ICE detention facility in Farmville, and Henry County. One challenge is that the growing tentacles of the virus may complicate school openings across Virginia.

3. The Growing K-12 Dilemma

Several national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have emphasized the importance of on-site schooling to child development. Dr. Joseph Allen, Chair of the Healthy Building Program at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, has published an extensive set of recommendations detailing how schools could reopen safely once the virus was under control.

One basic argument that is made notes that the effects of COVID-19 are not as severe among young people as with older adults so that schools ought to be much safer than other environments.

At the same time, there is growing anxiety among parents, teachers, and school system staff about reopening. They worry that social distancing is not really possible, that the ventilation systems in many building are inadequate, and that, overall, there are just too many unknowns.

None of this was helped this weekend when the President and Secretary DeVos virtually demanded that schools open without really acknowledging the fears and concerns that parents and teachers are expressing.

School administrators and school board members are facing some of the most important decisions they might ever make in the next few weeks. Last evening the Richmond School Board voted 8-1 to go fully virtual this fall in response to the concerns expressed by teachers, staff, and parents. Many other localities are developing a hybrid system in which students might attend on alternate days in order to provide a socially distanced environment and a measure of on-site learning.

I think that almost all school systems in the Commonwealth will wind up providing a fully virtual option to any parent that so desires. In any event, the opening of schools in 6 weeks has been made infinitely more complicated by the case increases occurring across the Commonwealth.

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