Local COVID-19 Cases Spike in Accomack Going Into Holiday Season

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By Carol Vaughn —
COVID-19 cases on the Eastern Shore are increasing.
“Over the past two weeks we have definitely seen an increase in our number of cases,” said Jon Richardson, chief operating officer at the Eastern Shore Health District, in a Nov. 23 email.
Richardson said the health department is keeping a close on eye on the situation.
“It is concerning,” he said.
Accomack County reported eight new cases Monday and now has a seven-day average of 7 daily new cases, or a seven-day average rate of 22 new daily cases reported per 100,000 population.
One new hospitalization and no new deaths were reported Monday in Accomack County.
Accomack County has had 1,308 cases, 105 hospitalizations and 21 deaths since the pandemic began.
Northampton County reported two new cases Monday and now has a seven-day average of 1 new daily case, or a seven-day average rate of 8.5 new daily cases per 100,000 population.
Northampton County had zero new hospitalizations and zero new deaths reported Monday.
Northampton County has had 339 cases, 49 hospitalizations, and 31 deaths since the pandemic began.
The Eastern Shore has had 17 outbreaks since the pandemic began, with 891 associated cases: four in long-term care facilities; 10 in congregate settings; one in a correctional facility; one in a healthcare setting; and one in a K-12 school.
There have been 150 cases among healthcare workers associated with outbreaks.
There have been 18,214 PCR tests administered in the Eastern Shore Health District and the current seven-day test positivity rate was 5.7% as of Monday.
“(I)t’s important for the community to know that as current community transmission trends are on the rise, there is more risk of outbreaks. While things have remained fairly calm in the poultry plants and schools, there is no guarantee for that to continue as case counts continue to rise,” Richardson said.
The current increase is not attributable to any one facility or gathering, according to Richardson.
“Many of these cases resulted from close contact with other positive cases,” he said of recently reported cases.
Last spring, many local coronavirus cases were traced to either nursing homes or Accomack County’s two poultry processing facilities.
Richardson said nursing homes are testing staff and patients regularly, based on federal guidelines.
“This has helped to quickly catch positive cases to isolate them from others,” he said, adding the health department has seen “very few cases” in long-term care facilities over the past several months.
Similarly, the health department has seen very few cases among poultry workers over the past several months, according to Richardson.
After locals schools resumed in-person classes, one outbreak has been reported in a school. That was a total of two cases at Nandua High School.
“We have seen other cases amongst staff and students at different schools but they have not resulted in outbreaks,” Richardson said, adding that the health department is not seeing transmission within the schools.
“For the most part, we have identified students and staff who have tested positive were exposed outside the school setting,” he said.
The health department anticipates case numbers could climb over the next couple of months as people gather to celebrate the holidays.
“Masks, social distancing, and frequent handwashing continue to be our best prevention methods,” Richardson said.
The health department follows up on all complaints related to Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders related to the pandemic.
Northam last week during a press conference said Virginia Health Department will continue to enforce safety measures outlined in the orders.
“So far, educational efforts have resulted in compliance with the executive orders, so we have not had to take any enforcement action,” Richardson said.
“We need to continue to do our best with our prevention methods. Wash your hands frequently, wear a mask in public, and maintain social distancing between yourselves and those outside of your household,” Richardson said, adding, “Continuing these practices will absolutely help keep case counts down. The science supporting that is undeniable. We will get through this by looking out for each other as a community.”