This region contains nearly all of the pockets of high COVID-19 community levels in Tennessee and Virginia, even as the number of new COVID-19 cases declines.
The Centers for Disease Control on Friday rated Carter, Hawkins, Unicoi and Washington counties in Northeast Tennessee with high rates of disease transmissibility. They are the only ones in Tennessee.
In Southwest Virginia, Dickenson and Wise counties and the city of Norton were also rated high, along with nearby Bland and Giles counties.
In those areas rated high, the CDC urges people to wear a mask if they have symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 or to wear a mask on public transportation, or just wear a mask for protection.
Testing positivity rates, which aren’t directly used in calculating community rates, remain all over the board, with some very high, including Carter at 37.2% and Washington at 37.9% in Northeast Tennessee, meaning more than one in three people tested is positive for the virus.
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Virginia rates are generally much lower – ranging from 5% in Buchanan County to 22.9% in the city of Bristol. While Virginia’s statewide rate is 11.5%, all three Southwest health districts are higher, ranging from 12.9% in Mount Rogers to 15.1% in LENOWISCO and 19.4% in the Cumberland Plateau district.
Ten Northeast Tennessee counties reported 1,161 new cases during the week of Sept. 17-24, the most recent information available from the Tennessee Department of Health. That is comparable to the previous two weeks of September, which resulted in 3,490 cases or an average of 1,163 per week.
Washington County had the most, at 356, compared to 231 in Sullivan and 135 new cases in Carter County.
Ten Southwest Virginia counties and two cities reported 444 new cases during the period from Sept. 23-30, topped by Wise County with 70, Tazewell County with 63 and Washington County with 62.
The region reported 32 deaths during the previous week, including six in Sullivan County. Since it began in 2020, the pandemic has claimed 4,950 of this region’s residents.
Ballad Health System reported 77 COVID-positive inpatients on Friday after treating well over 100 per week for several weeks. One month ago, Ballad had 153 COVID inpatients. On Friday, 18 were in intensive care units with eight on ventilators. Three pediatric patients are presently hospitalized.
“Case rates continue to dwindle in Virginia. They are now down 45% since the start of September,” according to modeling released Friday by the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute. “Twelve of Virginia’s 35 health districts are in slow growth trajectories, but none are in surge. Most districts are in decline.
“Hospitalizations in Virginia have fallen significantly. They are now down by more than 25% since the start of September. Hospitalizations typically lag reported cases by a few weeks. As such, this decline will likely continue in the coming weeks,” according to UVa.
The modeling report also mentions the likelihood of a winter surge in cases.
“Models suggest the possibility of a winter surge. If the commonwealth follows the same trajectory it did in 2020 and 2021, transmission rates will begin increasing in the next few weeks. It is critical that Virginians get boosted this fall. Models suggest that a bivalent booster campaign could prevent 150,000 cases by March,” according to the report.
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