JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — This region’s COVID-19 testing positivity rate continues smashing records through the first week of 2021, according to Ballad Health.
The region’s seven-day positivity rate reached 32.8% Thursday, breaking the previous record of 32.2%, set Wednesday across Ballad Health’s 21-county service area. That means about one in three people who underwent testing during the past seven days were positive for the novel coronavirus.
Rates above 30% are among the highest in either Tennessee or Virginia and among the highest in the U.S. Six states have rates above 30%, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine and Becker’s Hospital Review — independent sites that chart COVID-19 information.
The regional rate has remained above 30% for six straight days and eight of the past 10. A rate less than 5% is needed to slow spread of the disease, system officials said.
That translates into record numbers of patients being treated by area hospitals.
Ballad reported 350 COVID-19 inpatients on Thursday, marking 11 consecutive days — and 25 out of the past 28 days — with 300 or more patients in its hospitals. The system is also treating about 370 COVID patients with less severe symptoms at home using telehealth through its Safe at Home program.
There have been 107 COVID-related deaths over the past seven days.
The region is approaching 70,000 total cases and has logged 1,220 deaths due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The national seven-day positivity average is 8.83%, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Tennessee’s seven-day average was 26.7% Thursday while Virginia’s statewide average was 16.7%.
There is a time lag in reporting.
While daunting, that percentage figure could be higher due to gaps in testing during the holidays, system officials said during their weekly news briefing.
“The positivity is concerning, but the 44% decrease in testing over the past couple of weeks is also concerning,” said Jamie Swift, Ballad’s chief infection prevention officer. “I hope much of that was due to the holidays. There were days no one was offering testing on the holidays.
“I’m hoping that plays into that. I do encourage people who are symptomatic to please go get tested; if you’ve had exposure, please go get tested. I hope it’s not that we’re 10 months in and people with mild symptoms just don’t want to be tested,” she said.
Sullivan County’s seven-day positivity average was 27.6%, while Washington County, Tennessee, was at 31.5%, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Carter County’s rate was 31.4%. Tennessee’s average was 20.2%.
In Southwest Virginia, the Cumberland Plateau Health District’s seven-day average was 20.4%, LENOWISCO was 28.3% and Mount Rogers 23.7%. LENOWISCO’s rate is the highest among all Virginia health districts, but 13 districts reported rates above 20%.
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