COVID-19 cases return to May levels in Fairfax County

Coronavirus illustration (via CDC on Unsplash)

If there were any doubts that the novel coronavirus is experiencing a resurgence in Fairfax County, the past week put those to rest.

With an additional 39 cases reported today (Monday), the county is now averaging 36.6 COVID-19 cases per day for the past week — the highest since May 15, when the seven-day average was 37.4 cases, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

The 48 cases recorded last Thursday (July 15) were the most in a single day since May 27, but the 78 cases that came in that day were an anomaly, whereas this appears to be part of a gradual increase in transmission after a month-long lull in June.

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has now reported 78,567 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. 4,161 people have been hospitalized, and four more people have died from the virus since last Monday (July 12), bringing the death toll up to 1,151 people.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over past 90 days as of July 19, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of July 19, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Fairfax County is hardly alone in seeing a rise in COVID-19 levels.

Virginia as a whole has gone from a weekly average of 129 cases on June 20 — its lowest since the initial days of the pandemic in March 2020 — to a weekly average of 376 cases today. Nationwide, community transmission remains substantial, particularly across the South, lower Midwest, and Mountain West, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of Epidemiology and Population Health with the Fairfax County Health Department, says the more infectious delta variant “is likely a major contributor” to the county’s recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

As of Friday (July 16), the Fairfax Health District has confirmed 13 infections stemming from the delta variant, which hasn’t become as prevalent in Virginia as it is elsewhere in the U.S. In some areas around the country, that variant accounts for more than 70% of new cases.

However, infectious disease experts with Virginia Commonwealth University say “it’s not a matter of if but when” the delta variant will become widespread here.

“The key messages are, we can’t let down our guard, and everyone who isn’t vaccinated should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Drs. Gonzalo Bearman and Michael Stevens said in a VCU Health news release.

As with the rest of the country, COVID-19 appears to now be mostly spreading in Fairfax County among people who have not been vaccinated. According to the VDH’s dashboard, which is updated every Friday, 99% of the cases, hospitalizations, and deaths recorded in Northern Virginia since Jan. 1, 2021 have involved people who were not fully vaccinated.

“While we can’t predict future case numbers, we do know that the delta variant increases the risk of infection for people who are not vaccinated,” Schwartz said in a statement. “Vaccination is the most important step someone can take to not only reduce their chance of being infected with the delta variant but also protect others in their family and community.”

While demand has started to level out in recent weeks, the Fairfax Health District has administered 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 759,473 residents, including 76.2% of all adults. 64.2% of the district’s overall population has received at least one dose.

664,007 residents are now fully vaccinated, which amounts to 67.7% of adults and 56.1% of the total population.

“While we have done well — vaccinating about 3 of every 4 adults in the county — we need to do even better vaccinating people 12 years and older if we are to stop the increase in infections,” Schwartz said.

He encourages people who remain hesitant about getting vaccinated to consult their health care provider or the Fairfax County Health Department, which has a call center at 703-324-7404, to discuss their concerns.

“People for whom getting vaccinated just hasn’t been a priority should be aware of the increase in infections as added motivation to get protected,” Schwartz said. “With over 300 sites in Fairfax County providing vaccinations, many accepting walk-ins, vaccination never has been easier.”

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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