Omicron Variants Drive Rise in Eastern Shore COVID-19 Cases

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By Carol Vaughn — The Eastern Shore over the past month has seen a steady rise in COVID-19 cases, according to Jon Richardson, Chief Operating Officer, Eastern Shore Health District.

The average has risen from three cases per day to around 11 cases per day over the past month, Richardson said.

“The trajectory has been more gradual than what we’ve experienced with previous variants and, overall, we are still a good bit lower case-wise than we were in Fall 2021 with the Delta variant and significantly lower than January 2022 with the initial Omicron variant,” he said.

Most cases on the Shore now are the result of various Omicron variants or subvariants.

“I anticipate cases will continue to climb in the coming weeks though it’s impossible to predict how long exactly,” Richardson said in an email to an Eastern Shore Post reporter.

As of Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Health reported a seven-day average of 10.3 daily new cases reported on the Eastern Shore.

The region has reported 9,346 total cases and 171 total deaths as result of the pandemic.

Six new cases were reported Wednesday.
The seven-day PCR test positivity rate on the Shore was 13% as of May 24, according to the VDH.

In the past 13 weeks, there have been 230 cases and four deaths resulting from COVID-19 reported in Accomack County and 99 cases and three deaths reported in Northampton County, according to the VDH.

Two deaths as result of confirmed COVID-19 were reported on the Shore for the week ending April 30 and one death reported as probable from COVID-19 was recorded for the week ending April 23, according to the VDH.

They were the first deaths from COVID-19 reported on the Shore since two deaths reported for the week ending March 19. One probable case resulting in death also was reported for the week ending March 12 and one confirmed case resulting in death was reported for the week ending Feb. 26.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the week ending May 20, cases and hospitalizations continued to rise in the United States as a whole, as the nation marked one million deaths from COVID-19. “While about 54% of the U.S. population is experiencing low COVID-19 community levels, many areas have moved into medium and high levels,” according to a COVID-19 data tracker weekly review on the CDC website, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html

People who are up to date on getting the recommended COVID-19 vaccines have a much lower risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated people.

The CDC’s data tracker showed that in March, unvaccinated adults age18 and older were about five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those up to date on vaccination. Unvaccinated people age 12 years and older were 17 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those who were up to date on vaccination.

The currently spreading Omicron variants have been producing less severe disease on the Shore, with hospitalization and death rates remaining low, according to Richardson, who added, “Data clearly reflects vaccination remains effective against hospitalization and death from (COVID-19), with boosters providing the most protection.”

The Eastern Shore continues to have one of the highest vaccination rates in Virginia and the health district has seen similarly successful results with administration of boosters.
Still, Richardson said, “There are still many who are eligible for boosters who have not received one and there are many opportunities (primary care, pharmacies, health departments) available in the community for those who choose to get a booster to enhance their protection against (COVID-19).”

Elderly and immunocompromised people are at greatest risk of severe disease and should take precautions ensuring they are up to date on vaccinations.

The health district, beginning in June, will pilot a program to make house calls to give COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, according to Richardson.

“Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, it has been our mission to educate our community and remove any barriers to them being able to receive the (COVID-19) vaccine. We have been vaccinating homebound members of our community at their homes since the vaccine became available,” he said, adding the initiative will expand that opportunity to other members of the community.

Appointments for the house call vaccination program are limited and those wishing to schedule an appointment should contact Laurie Laird at 757-710-0277.

Boosters for Children Urged
The Virginia Department of Health has given the green light to Virginia health care providers to begin administering a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, according to Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Christy Gray.

After the CDC gave the go-ahead to administer the Pfizer vaccine to children in that age group, 316,571 children in Virginia had received at least one dose as of May 17. That represents nearly 44% of Virginia children in the age group.

More than 144,606 children fully vaccinated as of Dec. 17 are now eligible for a booster.
In a May 19 statement, Gray urged parents to talk to their child’s pediatrician or other health care provider about getting a booster shot.

“Vaccination helps to keep children from getting very sick (and) developing short- and long-term health problems and reduce(s) spread to loved ones and communities.

COVID-19 cases are rising in Virginia and this is a step parents can take to continue their child’s protection. The best way for parents to protect their children is through vaccination, which we urge parents to consider for their children’s safety and well-being,” she said.

Gray also encouraged those eligible for a second booster to talk to their doctor, after the CDC strengthened its recommendation that people 12 years and older who are immunocompromised and those 50 years and older should get a second booster if it has been four months since their first booster.

“As COVID-19 cases are rising in Virginia, VDH urges those eligible for a second booster vaccine to talk to their healthcare provider to ensure continued protection against severe illness,” she said.

On the same day the VDH released Gray’s statement, the department announced certain COVID-19 dashboards are being retired and will no longer be updated.

Those include data about cases by vaccination status; federal vaccine doses; vaccines received; and cases and deaths by date reported.

The VDH also announced it is removing landing pages for data about levels of community transmission and locality. Those dashboards were no longer published as of March 10.
Additionally, as of March 10 the data set giving the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases by ZIP Code is being updated weekly, rather than daily on weekdays.

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