Virginia obliterates COVID case record: ‘Not a reason for panic,’ Northam says
The Virginia Department of Health reported 12,112 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, easily a new record dating back to the early days of the pandemic in March 2020.
In contrast to the approach from the Northam administration in the early days, Gov. Ralph Northam is saying today that the case numbers associated with the Omicron variant are “a reason for concern, but not a reason for panic.”
“We have all studied the ‘number of cases’ for many months now, but this data point means something different today, compared to this time last year,” Northam said. “One year ago, vaccines had just become available, so nearly no one had gotten a shot. Today, more than 14 million shots have been given in Virginia. Only nine states have given more shots, and those states are all larger than Virginia. That’s good news, and it’s thanks to a lot of hard work by Virginians.
“Vaccinations are keeping people safe, even as the omicron variant spreads. Data from around the world show that if people have gotten vaccinated, and then get COVID, then symptoms are likely to be minor. That’s how the vaccines are designed to work, and it’s more good news.”
As the COVID virus becomes endemic, Northam said, “it’s now time to study not only the number of cases, but also the severity of symptoms and the number of people going to the hospital.”
That number is approaching the peak of the late-summer Delta variant wave, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, which has the number of people in Virginia hospitals today at 2,014.
The Delta peak was 2,211 back on Sept. 21.
The pandemic high-water mark was 3,201 on Jan. 13.
Northam pointed to VDH data showing that “nearly everyone going to the hospital with COVID is unvaccinated,” which is not entirely accurate – the latest data, for the week ending Dec. 18, has the unvaccinated accounting for 74.4 percent of new COVID hospitalizations.
But the point is valid.
“This is entirely avoidable, if everyone gets their shots,” Northam said.
“This is really important, because people working in hospitals are exhausted—nurses, doctors, and everyone. They have worked tirelessly for months to care for people who have gotten sick. Please go to the hospital only if you believe you really need to. It’s not fair to put even more pressure on hospital workers to care for people whose sickness is avoidable,” Northam said.
A press release from the governor’s office lists steps that people can take to help stem the case tide.
- It’s a good idea to stay away from people who have not gotten their shots.
- It’s a good idea to wear a mask when you’re around other people, especially if you don’t know whether they have been vaccinated.
- If you have not gotten a booster shot, now is the time to do it. Shots are widely available at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and local health departments all across Virginia.
- If you have children age five and above, now is the time to get them vaccinated. This will make it easier and safer for them to go back to school.
- If you have chosen not to get your shots, you need to wear a mask and practice social distancing—to protect yourself and other people.
- If you believe you need a test, please know that PCR tests are widely available, and more rapid antigen test kits are becoming available every day. You can click here to find testing sites. The federal government is in the process of making more than 500 million free at-home tests available. It’s important to understand that supplies of rapid antigen tests are limited across the country, so everyone needs to use good judgment when seeking these.
Story by Chris Graham