New COVID variant strand discovered in NOVA region

Virginia has reported 6,172 new positive cases of COVID-19 since Sunday. As of Monday, January 25 there are a record 478,619 total cases that have been reported since March 2020. 6,081 cases of the virus have resulted in death of the patient. There have been 20,764 hospitalizations due to the illness, but the Virginia Department of Health confirms that hospitalization numbers are underrepresented.

In the past two weeks time, Virginia has surpassed 6,000 new cases reported a day a total of four times. In the Commonwealth, case numbers are the worst among the localities of Virginia Beach, Richmond and surrounding areas, and Fairfax and the areas surrounding Washington, D.C. Fairfax County has seen the most cases of the virus, passing a total of 57,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to the Brown School of Public Health’s COVID Risk Level Assessment map, Virginia remains in the red. A red on the transmission risk scale means that stay-at-home orders are necessary to abide by in order to contain the risk of spread.

Thus far, the Commonwealth has been able to fully vaccinate 64,381 people. An additional 458,472 Virginians have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Virginia currently remains in the 1a and 1b phases of the vaccination plan. Phase 1a consists of first vaccinating all healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1b consists of vaccinating frontline essential workers, people over the age of 65, people ages 16-63 with an underlying health condition, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters or migrant labor camps.

VCU Health announced Monday that they will be ready to continue with Phase 1b once vaccine supplies become available. They began administering the vaccine to current patients the week prior, but had to stop due to the shortage.

Mecklenburg County has amassed a total of 1,683 reported cases and 44 deaths. The neighboring counties of Brunswick and Halifax reported 1,058 cases with 8 deaths, and 1,876 cases with 50 deaths respectively.

Two hundred and twenty-nine Mecklenburg County residents have been vaccinated so far, and an additional 2,116 patients have received their first dose of the vaccine.

On Monday, January 25, the Virginia Department of Health alerted the Commonwealth that the first case of the COVID-19 B.1.1.7. variant has been found. The case was recorded in the Northern Virginia area; the patient reportedly has not traveled. The B.1.1.7. variant first emerged in the United Kingdom in 2020.

So far, the only reported difference between this variant and the “normal” COVID-19 strand is an increased risk of transmission. Early data collected by the Department of Health suggests that the vaccine is still effective against this newly developed strand of the virus. Reports have not shown if this new strand affects the severity of the virus. More information is necessary and being collected at this time.