By Taylor Boyd
Due to the large number of unvaccinated individuals in the district, officials with the West Piedmont Health District (WPHD) said the region is in for a potentially bad winter.
Public information officer Nancy Bell said the organization is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases every day, particularly among those who have not received a vaccine.
“It’s repeating the pattern that we had when it first came,” she said, and added that the only way to curb the increase in cases is for people to start getting vaccinated.
“In Patrick County, every Monday you could walk in without an appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and get a vaccine. It’s not a lack of access,” she said.
Despite the vaccine being widely available, people, particularly those in Patrick County, are not getting their vaccine because of false information, she said.
“It’s unfortunate. We try to show the science, but not everyone trusts the science or the government, so I just hate that this is happening because people are going to lose their lives because they didn’t have the facts,” Bell said.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day in hopes that will boost confidence in the prevention effort, according to online reports. Moderna applied for approval of its vaccine in June, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to file for full approval later this year. All have been under emergency authorization since last year.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Bell said health officials are telling people to follow the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance, which includes wearing a mask when outside and around crowds such as in a store or at school.
Because of the increase in case number, the WPHD also put together a Strike team and decided to keep a contract worker on staff.
Protecting oneself is especially important as COVID variants are appearing in the state and near the district.
“The Delta variant is much more contagious. It has bigger droplets, more droplets, and it’s much meaner to your body,” she said.
Unvaccinated individuals can pass the Delta variant to others, including vaccinated people, who in turn can pass it to more people, Bell said, adding most vaccinated individuals either have mild symptoms or do not feel effects of the Delta variant if they contract it.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) website states that the Delta variant is believed to spread more easily and quickly than other variants.
“Early evidence suggests there might be an association with more serious illness or death, but this is being monitored,” the website stated.
“We can still turn this back if people will get vaccinated. If they don’t, I fear we’re going to have a very unpleasant winter,” Bell said.
As of August 3, 32.1 percent of the population, or 5,659 people, has been fully vaccinated in Patrick County. 35.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 42.1 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
In Henry County, 38.7 percent of the population, or 21,707 people, has been fully vaccinated. 42.4 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 46.2 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
As of Tuesday, August 3 data from the Virginia Department of Health suggested there are 4,753 cases, with 381 hospitalizations, and 124 deaths in Henry County. In Patrick County, 1,443 cases with 121 hospitalized, and 46 dead from the COVID-19 virus were reported. In the City of Martinsville, 1,644 cases were reported with 171 hospitalized, and 79 dead.
The data also suggests there are 699,342 cases in the state, with 31,470 hospitalized, and 11,536 dead from the COVID-19 virus. Information from the CDC suggested there are 35,171,679 cases in the United States and 611,791 dead from coronavirus.
Data also suggests that as of August 3, 4,623,725 Virginians have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
For more tips on how to stay safe, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.