By Taylor Boyd
Following a decline in COVID-19 numbers earlier this year, cases are starting to rise throughout the country.
West Piedmont Health District public information officer Nancy Bell said the numbers are rising because people aren’t getting vaccinated.
“For this to work, most of the population needs to be vaccinated. Patrick County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state,” she said, adding that those refusing the vaccine are potentially hurting themselves, their family, friends, and others.
“It’s really time to step up and do your part. They’re free, they’re easy to access, and they’re there based on science,” she said. “We’re under conditions just like smallpox, and tuberculous, and all those other things that we’ve managed to get a handle on because the vaccines work.”
Bell said cases are also increasing because of the prevalence of COVID-19 variants in the health district.
While scientists and doctors are still unsure if variants can severely affect a vaccinated person, it is possible for a fully vaccinated person to get infected with a COVID variant.
“We had somebody get the Delta variant after being vaccinated with two shots, but I think that’s extremely rare and is only for someone who has some really poor immune issues going on” or those with weakened immune systems, Bell said.
It is her understanding that if fully vaccinated people get the Delta variant, they would hardly know because of the protection from the vaccine.
“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has said that the vaccine is protective of the variants, we just don’t know to what degree yet,” she said.
The Delta variant is an extremely transmissible mutated form of the COVID-19 virus.
“It’s meaner. Once it gets in you, it immediately works on your lungs to get them sticky. Double phenomena is not uncommon with a person who has the Delta virus,” Bell said.
According to the CDC, there are currently four COVID-19 variants in the United States. More variants are expected to appear as “viruses constantly change and become more diverse,” the CDC said.
COVID-19 variants are currently not being tracked by the CDC or the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), but Bell said there is a possibility of a dashboard tracker being created.
Because of the increasing COVID-19 rates, discussions on reinstating a mask mandate are currently underway, but “I don’t know that I would predict that we’re going to be wearing masks again. I don’t think the federal nor the state government will issue those kinds of orders again,” she said, and added masks still need to used in enclosed spaces and crowds.
“It would be a personal choice, but one we would recommend if things got much worse,” she said.
As of July 21, 31.7 percent of the population, or 5,590 people, has been fully vaccinated in Patrick County; 24.8 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 37.7 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
In Henry County, 37 percent of the population, or 18,685 people, has been fully vaccinated. 41.4 percent of the population has received at least one dose, and 44.4 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, July 21 data from the Virginia Department of Health suggested there are 4,701 cases, with 378 hospitalizations, and 124 deaths in Henry County. In Patrick County, 1,423 cases with 12 hospitalized, and 45 dead from the COVID-19 virus were reported. In the City of Martinsville, 1,634 cases were reported with 170 hospitalized, and 79 dead.
The data also suggests there are 686,884 cases in the state, with 31,037 hospitalized, and 11,491 dead from the COVID-19 virus. Information from the CDC suggested there are 34,030,494 cases in the United States and 607,289 dead from coronavirus.
Data also suggests that as of July 21, 4,547,021 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.