COVID-19 deaths in Culpeper County spiked sharply by six people from Monday to Wednesday as reporting was brought up to date. A local funeral-home owner, meanwhile, reported regularly serving families in COVID-related death services for weeks on end.
The Virginia Department of Health reported 29 Culpeper residents had died of the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday, compared to the total of 23 reported on Jan. 11. The counts log deaths since reporting began in March.
Rappahannock-Rapidan Health Director Wade Kartchner said the jump in Culpeper deaths was due to a catch-up in local death reporting.
Dr. Kartchner said the new deaths occurred in the past 15 to 30 days. Kartchner said local residents dying from the infectious virus continue to be in the 70-plus age range.
Found & Sons Funeral Home, with offices in Culpeper and Fredericksburg, has handled more than 50 COVID-19 deaths from the 16 counties it serves, company president Scott Found said Wednesday. Four employees were exposed, resulting in their isolation and testing, with negative results, he said.
Found said the funeral home has stepped up building disinfection, with strict adherence to state and federal mandates, erring on the side of common-sense caution. In-person viewings of loved ones are offered for 10 people at a time, as well as free, professional live-streaming of funeral services.
“So far, everyone has been respectful of our business and, more importantly, those who come to pay their last respects,” Found said.
The morgue at the Culpeper funeral home will increase from eight-person to 25-person capacity as part of a state-required expansion necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and overall business growth, he said.
Found hopes to get final comments on the project addressed this week by the town Planning & Zoning Department, and start pulling permits next week.
“If I can’t get going soon, I’m going to need to get a trailer,” he said.
In non-pandemic times, the larger morgue will not get used most of the time, Found said.
“But I personally feel and see evidence that leads me to believe I will need that space for six more months,” he said. “It has steadily increased week by week, to the point where we have a COVID death at almost all times locally or regionally.”
Positive COVID-19 cases in Culpeper County as of Wednesday had increased by 33 since Monday and by more than 300 cases since Jan. 1, 2021.
Hospitals in the five-county Culpeper area, likewise, continue to see a rise in COVID-19 cases, with 13 new admissions reported from Monday to Wednesday of this week. Fauquier County has seen the most new hospitalizations in recent weeks, according to the state Health Department.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control’s K-12 school metrics pandemic data, which school systems use to determine in-person instruction, 82 percent of in-patient hospital beds in the Culpeper region were occupied as of Jan. 13, a “moderate” risk.
Ranked as “higher” risk was the 15.4 percent of those beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.