Positivity rate dropping in region, restrictions eased

Published 8:16 pm Thursday, September 10, 2020

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Though the Western Tidewater Health District still has the highest seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 among South Hampton Roads localities, it has taken a nearly 4% drop in less than two weeks.

The drop coincides with an announcement from Gov. Ralph Northam Sept. 10 to ease restrictions and move Hampton Roads into Phase 3.

“Hampton Roads residents, businesses and health officials have worked together to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Northam said in a statement. “New cases have dropped by more than half, hospitalizations have declined, and percent positivity has fallen below the statewide average.

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“But we cannot let our guard down — we all must continue practicing social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and following all public health guidelines. If we want to keep moving forward, we must stay vigilant and do the things that we know will keep our communities safe.”

On Aug. 30, the seven-day positivity rate for the health district — inclusive of Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County — was 14.4%. As of Sept. 10, it is 10.8%, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Statewide, the positivity rate has remained steady since Aug. 28 and is 7.6%. There have been 130,525 positive COVID-19 cases in Virginia since the start of the pandemic, and 2,708 people have died.

The rest of South Hampton Roads has positivity rates under 10% — Portsmouth (9.3%), Chesapeake (7.2%), Norfolk (6.7%) and Virginia Beach (5.6%).

There have been 3,151 cases across the district since the start of the pandemic — 1,773 in Suffolk, 635 in Isle of Wight, 393 in Southampton and 350 in Franklin. Of the district’s 94 deaths, 63 have come in Suffolk, 13 in Southampton, 11 in Isle of Wight and seven in Franklin.

In the Eastern Region, which includes Suffolk, emergency department visits from people with COVID-19-like illnesses have dropped steadily since a peak of 1,866 on July 25 to 992 on Sept. 5, though weekly urgent care visits from those with COVID-19-like illnesses rose from 950 on Aug. 29 to 1,190 on Sept. 5.

In the region, 334 of the 2,457 hospital beds total are occupied with COVID-19 patients. Among them, 44 people are on ventilators and 77 in intensive care.

The health district has had 17 outbreaks with 597 total COVID-19 cases associated with them — 61 cases are health care workers. Of the outbreaks, nine have been in long-term care facilities, four in congregate settings, three in correctional facilities and one in a health care setting.

The Hampton Roads-specific restrictions took effect July 31 and banned gatherings of more than 50 people, reduced indoor dining to 50% capacity and required restaurants to close at midnight and stop alcohol sales after 10 p.m. Besides Suffolk, the impacted localities included other Southside Hampton Roads cities, along with areas on the Peninsula.

The Eastern Region’s positivity rate is 6.7% and has been dropping for 12 days, with the number of new COVID-19 cases in the region going down for 46 days. Hospitalizations — including ICU-related hospitalizations — have been going down for about three weeks. Emergency room admissions have also been declining.

Gatherings in Phase 3 are limited to no more than 250 people. The half-capacity limit on non-essential retail businesses is lifted, as is the 50% capacity on restaurants’ indoor and outdoor capacity limit, though physical distancing is still required. Entertainment places such as museums, zoos, outdoor places and movie theaters can have 50% capacity with a maximum of 1,000 people in any space.

Gyms and fitness centers are allowed to increase their capacity from 30% to 75%.


Districts with 7-Day Positivity Rate over 10% for COVID-19 in Virginia

Central Shenandoah — 17.9%

Pittsylvania-Danville — 15.2%

New River — 15.1%

West Piedmont — 13.9%

Southside — 13.3%

Mount Rogers — 11.5%

Lenowisco — 10.9%

Western Tidewater — 10.8%

Crater — 10.8%