By Carol Vaughn —
The Eastern Shore for the past six weeks has been averaging around one case per day of COVID-19, according to a health department official.
The health department is closely monitoring an increase in cases seen over the past four days, said Jon Richardson, chief operating officer of the Eastern Shore Health District, on Monday.
The delta variant of the virus has been identified among cases on the Eastern Shore, which Richardson said is not surprising.
“The vaccines are still measuring pretty effective against this variant, which is good news. Given its higher level of transmissivity, the main concern would be amongst the unvaccinated,” he said in an email.
There currently are four variants of concern in the United States. All four have been reported on the Eastern Shore.
The delta variant is now the most common variant in the United States. It is thought to be 40% to 60% more transmissible than the alpha variant, which itself is estimated to spread about 50% more easily than previous variants.
As of Friday, July 23, the Eastern Shore had reported 13 cases of the alpha variant; two of the beta variant; one of the gamma variant; and three of the delta variant.
A variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is considered to be concerning when it increases the risk to human health, for example by spreading more easily or causing more severe illness, among other factors.
New COVID-19 cases in Accomack have been increasing for the past 30 days, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The number of new cases in Northampton has been decreasing.
Between June 20 and July 24, the Eastern Shore reported 29 new cases and one death.
Of the total cases, seven were people 19 or under; 10 were age 20-39; seven were age 40-59; four were age 60-79; and one was a person age 80 or over.
Four of the cases involved Black individuals; three were Latino; and 22 were White.
One case was in a congregate setting.
The percent of positive PCR tests over the past seven days is 5.6% in the Eastern Shore Health District. The percent positivity has been on the increase in both counties over the past 23 days, according to the VDH.
Around 53% of the Shore’s overall population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, and almost 50% is fully vaccinated.
Among adults only, 64% has received at least one dose of vaccine. The percent increases to 84% for Shore residents age 65 and older.
The statistics mean the Shore remains ahead, in terms of vaccination rate, of almost all comparable Virginia health districts — that is, other rural districts with similar socioeconomic profiles, according to Richardson.
Around 26% of Shore residents age 12 through 17 has been vaccinated.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, Eastern Shore Rural Health is offering vaccine, including to that age group.
Anyone may call Rural Health to make an appointment for their child to be vaccinated, whether or not he or she is a patient there, at no cost.
The Centers for Disease Control in a briefing Tuesday announced it has updated its guidance to recommend vaccinated people wear masks indoors in certain parts of the country with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19. That includes almost two-thirds of counties in the United States. According to the CDC, vaccinated people should once again be wearing masks indoors in public in Accomack County, which is in the high transmission category.
In May, the CDC guidance was revised to say vaccinated people did not have to wear masks in certain situations. At that point, the Delta variant accounted for only 1% of infections in the country. Now it represents 83% or more, according to the CDC.
The lower-than-hoped-for vaccination rate in the country also likely is a factor in the CDC’s revised guidance.
Unvaccinated people should continue masking until fully vaccinated — the same guidance the CDC previously gave.
Accomack as of July 24 fell into the high category for community transmission of COVID-19, according to the CDC definitions, which are based on county-level data for the number of new cases per 100,000 people and the seven-day test positivity rate. Northampton was in the low category.
The CDC COVID-19 county-level data tracker can be viewed at https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view
As of July 26, Virginia health and education officials announced school divisions can make local mask policies based on community conditions and public health recommendations, according to the Interim Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in Virginia PreK-12 Schools.
Below are the recommendations from the interim guidance for school divisions to adopt for the 2021-2022 school year:
Elementary schools (including PreK classrooms) should require students, teachers, and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This recommendation should stay until vaccination is available for children under 12 years old and there has been enough time for children younger than 12 years old to be fully vaccinated.
At minimum, middle and high schools should require students, teachers, and staff who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks indoors.
All schools may want to consider universal masking, regardless of vaccination status, for specific reasons as outlined by the CDC.
All schools should be prepared to adjust local mask policies as local public health conditions change throughout the year.
Masks must be worn on school buses, per federal order.
Since January of last year, at least one in 11 people in Accomack County and one in 15 in Northampton County have been infected with COVID-19, according to the New York Times coronavirus tracker.
At least one in 703 in Accomack and one in 325 in Northampton have died of the virus.
Since the pandemic began, 2,907 cases in Accomack and 807 in Northampton have been reported.
In Accomack, 216 people have been hospitalized and 46 have died as result of the virus. In Northampton, 82 have been hospitalized and 36 have died.
At least one in 10 people in the United States has been infected and at least one in 543 has died during the same period, according to the New York Times.