Health department releases new COVID-19 dashboard

Published 7:38 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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Local governments now have a new tool from the Virginia Department of Health to guide their decisions as Suffolk and other school divisions phase in face-to-face instruction for its students.

State health officials unveiled a pandemic metrics dashboard that they hope will show how COVID-19 is spreading regionally, and the metrics now include information on outbreaks in child care facilities, K-12 schools and colleges and universities. It also shows metrics that aim to show how the virus is spreading within a community.

“There are a number of indicators through these dashboards that are available to help localities and schools make decisions,” state epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said Sept. 28. “The data that we’re showing are not intended to be a true forecast. They really are available to take within the context of the local setting to understand what steps they need to take to reduce transmission of the virus.”

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Eight metrics are shown for each region, including the daily case incidence rate, the daily COVID-19 testing percent positivity, the rate of outbreaks, percent of cases involving health care workers, rate of visits to emergency departments for COVID-19-like illnesses, rate of current COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations, percent of currently-occupied hospital beds and number of hospitals having trouble getting personal protective equipment in the past week. These metrics are updated daily.

For the Eastern Region as of Sept. 30, those metrics include:

  • Daily case incidence rate: 7.8 per 100,000
  • Daily COVID-19 percent positivity: 5.0%
  • Rate of outbreaks per 100,000 people: 0.04
  • Percent of cases involving health care workers: 5.6%
  • Emergency department visits by people with COVID-like illnesses per 100,000 people: 6.7
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people: 1.7
  • Percent of hospital beds currently occupied: 76.6%
  • Hospitals with trouble acquiring PPE: 0

The state health department is also measuring the transmission extent on a weekly basis. It will show data trends for the virus in specific communities, where it is spreading and help local and state governments in determining added measures for mitigation.

“Communities across the Commonwealth are facing different challenges as we all continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver in a statement. “This pandemic dashboard provides data for communities to individualize and tailor response efforts to local needs. A community where cases are surging and hospital beds are filling up, for example, will require different response efforts from those in a community where cases are declining and hospital occupancy is low.”

The dashboard will also include a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention school metrics tab to give school officials information to inform their decisions on school reopening.

For Suffolk, there have been 136 new cases per 100,000 people in the last 14 days, while the 14-day percent positivity rate is 6.14%. In the Western Tidewater Health District, which includes Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County, the 7-day positivity rate is 9.1%, down nearly 5% in the past 10 days. There are 18 outbreaks in the region — nine in long-term care facilities, four in congregate settings, four in correctional facilities and one in a health care setting. None have taken place in child care, college/university or K-12 school settings.

“On behalf of the commonwealth’s 132 school divisions, I thank the Virginia Department of Health for making this dashboard available as a resource to inform local decision making to help schools navigate how and when to consider in-person, hybrid and virtual instruction,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said in a statement.