COVID rates increase on Eastern Shore with arrival of the winter season

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BY CAROL VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post

COVID-19 cases on the Eastern Shore are trending upward with the arrival of winter, similarly to last year.

Still, vaccination and other measures are keeping the death rate low compared to earlier in the pandemic, before vaccines were available.

The seven-day moving average of new cases for the Eastern Shore Health District as of Jan. 3 is 19.71, up significantly from 11.71 just one week ago and 6.86 on Dec. 1.

“As expected at this time of year, we are seeing an increase in all respiratory illnesses. We are not seeing an increase in COVID deaths,” said Jonathan Richardson, Eastern Shore Health District chief operating officer.

Richardson said among factors to be considered in the seasonal fluctuation of the illness is the tendency of people to gather more closely indoors in the cooler weather, increasing the risk of contracting any respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

“We continue to stress good hygiene practices such as frequent handwashing. In addition, it is important to stay home when you feel sick,” Richardson said, adding, “As you know, the Shore is full of hardworking folks and frequently they will continue to work while sick but they put others they are in close contact with at risk, particularly in indoor settings.”

He noted COVID-19 booster shots are readily available at pharmacies and at Eastern Shore Rural Health and Riverside primary care practices.

“In addition, for the past several months, the health department has been providing at home COVID boosters to those who have difficulty with transportation. We have done our best to ensure that anyone who wishes to receive a booster is able to do so,” he said.

In the past 13 weeks, Accomack County reported 575 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths resulting from the illness; Northampton reported 154 cases and two deaths in the same period, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

A person who tests positive for COVID-19 should isolate at home for at least five days from when tested (not the day they received the positive result), according to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

If a person develops symptoms within 10 days of the test, the clock restarts and the person must stay home and isolate for at least five days.

If a person is exposed to someone with COVID-19, wearing a mask and taking a test five full days after exposure can help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others.

Testing locations in Virginia can be found at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/protect-yourself/covid-19-testing/covid-19-testing-sites/

Information about where to get vaccinated is at https://vaccinate.virginia.gov/ or call 877-829-4682 (855-VAX-IN-VA) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

People also can get a copy of their immunization record by following the link at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/

According to the VDH, five outbreaks (defined as three or more cases in a single setting) were reported in the past 13 weeks on the Eastern Shore. The data does not specify the type of setting.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, the Eastern Shore has reported 60 outbreaks in all, including two in child care settings; 28 in congregate settings; five in correctional facilities; two in health care settings; six in K-12 schools; and 16 in long-term care facilities.

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