By Taylor Boyd
Much of the Patrick County Veterans Memorial Building will be shuttered for the rest of the week due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The closing may be extended, if needed, according to Patrick County Administrator Geri Hazelwood. Courts remain open.
She said the closing began Monday, Dec. 20, after a staff member tested positive the day before.
As of Dec. 20, Hazelwood estimated five people, including herself, have tested positive.
“I don’t have firm numbers. People are still obviously testing, and some people aren’t showing symptoms,” she said.
Hazelwood said the COVID-19 outbreak appears to be primarily in the building’s administration and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices.
Staff members in those departments are encouraged to quarantine, Hazelwood said, and added that residents are encouraged to visit the DMV in Martinsville-Henry County or use the online system.
While some may be breakthrough cases – occurring in those who have had the vaccine and/or booster, health officials fear this may be the beginning of a long winter, according to Nancy Bell, public information officer with the West Piedmont Health District (WPHD).
She worries health officials will experience a scenario in January with dozens of deaths reported, mainly due to holiday celebrations.
“We’re not back to normal yet, and we shouldn’t act like we are back to normal,” Bell said, citing the surge of COVID-19 cases after the Thanksgiving holiday and low vaccination rates.
Although the district deployed several community health workers to talk to those with reservations about the vaccines, and provide accurate information, Bell said Patrick County’s vaccination numbers continue to lag.
The community workers “are going into companies, churches, and civic groups and giving presentations, and handing out materials on the safety of the vaccine, but we still have a lot of vaccine hesitancy,” Bell said.
Health officials are encouraging those who are not going to get vaccinated to stay away from family and/or those who are considered vulnerable during the holidays, Bell said.
Doing otherwise “can make them ill, or they can die. Getting vaccinated is your choice, but you’ve just got to do the right thing,” she said.
For additional help before and after the holidays, Bell said the district will offer free COVID-19 testing. It most likely will be held in a central location like Martinsville.
Many drug stores also carry at-home test kits, and usually cost $10 per kit, she said, and added “if you’re going to see grandma, you should get a test before you go.”
Those who are vaccinated are advised to keep a reasonable distance from others this holiday season to help mitigate the risk, Bell said. “If you’re visiting inside, try to make the ventilation as open as possible with the windows (open), handwashing of course, and wear a mask” when not eating.
As of December 15, 39.7 percent of the population, or 6,982 people, were fully vaccinated in Patrick County; 44.5 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 46.1 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated. The county’s seven-day positive test rate is 17.7.
In Henry County, 47.2 percent of the population, or 23,883 people, were fully vaccinated; 53.5 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 55.4 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
In the City of Martinsville, 54.4 percent of the population, or 6,829 people, were fully vaccinated; 60.8 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 68.7 percent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, December 15 information from the Virginia Department of Health suggested there are 7,333 cases, with 474 hospitalizations, and 190 deaths in Henry County.
In Patrick County, 2,410 cases with 138 hospitalized, and 61 dead from the COVID-19 virus were reported.
In Martinsville, 2.290 cases were reported with 187 hospitalized, and 94 dead.
The data also suggests there are 1,006,245 cases in the state, with 40,119 hospitalized, and 15,025 dead. Information from the CDC suggested there are 50,052,008 cases in the United States, and 796,010 dead from the virus.
Data also suggests that as of December 15, 5,684,696 Virginians were 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.