By Taylor Boyd
The surge of COVID-19 cases in Patrick County and other areas of Virginia is expected to peak this week.
Four free at home tests may be ordered through the federal government by going to www.COVIDTests.gov and clicking on the “Order Free At-Home Tests” button or go to www.usps.com/covidtests.
Additionally, according to a social media post Monday by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the U.S. government plans to distribute 400 million free nonsurgical N95 masks through pharmacies and health centers. The program was reported to be fully ramped up by early February, the post stated.
Nancy Bell, public information officer for the West Piedmont Health District (WPHD) of the VDH, said despite the lower population, localities in the district seem to be more affected by the surge in positive cases.
“It seems to be Southwest Virginia is lower than the rest of the state. So, not just the district, but everybody left of us. It’s just the southwest part of the state seems to be harder hit by it now,” she said.
Southwest Virginia and the Western part of Virginia are also currently experiencing more hospitalizations, cases, and deaths, according to Bell, who said this is due to a lack of vaccinated individuals.
“COVID has had a chance to mutate because not enough of us got vaccinated. That’s why those of us who got vaccinated are having to get boosters and third and fourth shots because it’s mutating in those who aren’t vaccinated. The more unvaccinated you have, the more sickness you’re going to have,” she said.
The post-holiday COVID influx is expected to reach its peak the week of Jan. 24, but Bell noted the effects will be felt the next couple of weeks.
“The case load is outperforming vaccination rates and everything else. Our contact tracers can’t keep up with it,” she said
Bell said the COVID-19 mutations and cases cannot be attributed to a particular location, but to what is known as community spread, which is where an infectious disease is spread within a group of people who have had no known contact with a person infected with or exposed to the disease.
It also is unknown if the surge in cases can be attributed to the omicron variant. Bell said the district sent some virus samples off to be tested and is waiting on the results.
“Most of the cases when I was in two weeks ago were still delta,” she said.
Because of the increase in cases, the district lacks a sufficient supply of home tests and other COVID-19 supplies.
“The Health Department has had trouble even ordering them,” Bell added.
To help with this shortage, individuals are now able to order four free at home tests through the federal government. Tests can be ordered by going to www.COVIDTests.gov and clicking on the “Order Free At-Home Tests” button or by going to www.usps.com/covidtests.
Walk in appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are available at the Patrick County Health Department on Thursdays. Vaccines can also be received at local pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart.
The health district also is holding testing events at the Martinsville National Guard Amory on Wednesdays through Feb. 23, from 12:30 to 4 p.m. There is no age limit at the drive-thru testing site, and registration is not required. The site It is limited to 100 people a day, and masks are mandatory.
As of Tuesday, Jan. 18, the West Piedmont District has experienced 66 COVID-19 outbreaks with 27 occurring in long term care facilities; 13 occurred in K-12 school systems, 20 in congregate settings, five in correctional facilities, and one in a childcare setting.
There are an additional 1,649 cases and 138 deaths associated to the outbreaks.
For tips on how to stay safe, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.