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State resumes tracking of specific outbreaks

The Virginia Department of Health has resumed reporting on outbreaks at specific locations, though it does not indicate previous outbreaks while the dashboard was offline.

The dashboard’s return is due to what it said is the rapid increase in positive COVID-19 cases from the Delta variant. The state health department said the dashboard would be updated weekly on Fridays. The publicly posted data, it said, would go back only to Aug. 1, “as these are the most relevant to implementing mitigation strategies and informing the public,” it said. Outbreaks include two or more positive COVID-19 cases as defined by the state department of health. Those in medical care facilities, residential or day programs licensed by the state health department, Department of Social Services or Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, summer camps, K-12 schools, colleges and universities and long-term care facilities are included in the dashboard.

The outbreak dashboard indicates one in the Western Tidewater area — at Surry County High School, which is in the Crater Health District. It does not indicate the number of cases to preserve anonymity. It is one of 16 outbreaks in progress listed around the state for locations with children or teens, half of them with counts suppressed to preserve anonymity. The 16 outbreaks include eight in K-12 settings and six at daycare/pre-K locations.

On Aug. 5, Surry County Public Schools announced on its Facebook page that two unvaccinated members of its high school football team had tested positive for COVID-19.

“The players who are fully vaccinated are out there playing on the field or practicing on the field today,” Surry County Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims said at an Aug. 9 school board work session.

The ones who are unvaccinated, but had not tested positive, had to quarantine for two weeks, Sims said.

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the Western Tidewater Health District has had 36 outbreaks — 16 at long-term care facilities, 11 in congregate settings, four at correctional facilities, two each in health care or child care settings and one in a K-12 school. There have been 1,717 positive COVID-19 cases and 81 deaths associated with those outbreaks.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver granted the exception to resume reporting outbreaks to include the facility’s name. Outbreaks are listed by locality, facility type and public health investigation status. Cases and deaths linked to an outbreak will be listed, though some totals will be suppressed to preserve anonymity. For residential or day programs, K-12 schools or summer camps, they must have at least 30 enrolled students or residents and staff to be reported in the outbreak dashboard.

According to the state department of health, it’s possible to have more than one COVID-19 outbreak at a facility taking place at the same time in different areas, or they may have had multiple outbreaks over the course of the pandemic. For confidentiality, the state health department said the dashboard will report outbreaks at the facility level and not in a particular unit or subsection.