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Holsworth: August 25, 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].


1. Hospitalizations Moderately Down, Deaths Increase

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported that there were 1174 COVID-19 patients in hospitals today. This is down from 1233 in my last report on Friday and from 1253 this time last week.

Trends regarding patients in ICUs and on ventilators are also trending down. Last week at this time there were 300 patients in ICUs, 273 today. One week ago, there were 163 patients on ventilators, today 144.

There were, however, 98 deaths in the past 7 days compared to 52 the previous week.

2. Cases at 943 Per Day, Test Positivity Inches Down

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 1212, 894, 664, and 1005 cases the last four days. Case growth has significantly declined in NOVA and Hampton Roads, but the spread of the virus throughout the Commonwealth has kept case numbers up as we see widespread small increases.

I am not certain that the reporting from the City of Richmond includes all the identified cases at VCU and what the lag time may be from the time the university reports to its appearance on the VDH site.

The 7-day test positivity rate continues to inch down and was at 6.4% today.

3. Colleges and Universities

The nationwide focus for the last week has been on the emergence of clusters at several universities where students have returned. Chapel Hill reported more than 500 cases before going fully virtual. And the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has also reported a similar number. Ohio has suspended large numbers of students for breaking its COVID-19 rules and numerous other universities are grappling with the spread of the virus, both on and off campus.

In RVA, Virginia State University announced today that it will be going fully virtual and will not be bringing students back to campus dorms. President Makola Abdullah stated that he did not think that VSU could guarantee that it would be able to prevent widespread transmission on campus.

VCU and the University of Richmond continue to have students in dorms and are holding, in varying degrees, in person classes. VCU has developed an extensive testing protocol for students, including regular prevalence testing designed to understand the extent of the virus within the student body. And UR is severely restricting outside access to campus.

I don’t know how this will play out, but town-gown relationships are already showing signs of strain. Stephanie Lynch, 5th District councilwoman and a VCU grad, tweeted that she is “calling on VCU to go all virtual the rest of the semester. VCU is putting our seniors and high risk neighbors at risk unnecessarily.”

In terms of public universities, Virginia has a system where the individual institutions are governed by independent boards and not by a system-wide central board. Each institution decides how it will respond to COVID-19. In some ways, this is very good – the administration and boards can tailor an approach that is most suitable for their locale and their student body. We may be able to see what kind of approach actually works best. At the same time, it could certainly be argued that the decentralized response to the pandemic is at least partially responsible for its persistence and virulence.