Dr. Wade Kartchner

Dr. Wade Kartchner, director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, talks with a visitor.

The incidence of COVID-19 cases in Culpeper has declined in recent weeks, but the county—and its larger region—“are in this for the long haul,” the area’s leading public health official says.

Dr. Wade Kartchner, director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, spoke out Tuesday because he wanted “to provide a warning against the complacency that seems to have set in” as the nation enters the seventh month of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“In my opinion, we cannot sustain, either economically or socially, another shutdown to achieve a goal of driving COVID-19 cases down as before,” Kartchner wrote on the district’s Facebook page and in a bulletin to news media. “We are left with trying to do those things that will manage the spread of cases and keep the disease from those most vulnerable. This includes those physical distancing, masking, and staying home when sick--recommendations that we continually talk about. Likewise, we need to pay attention to our long-term care facilities. (The Virginia Department of Health) and other agencies are working with these facilities to phase in their ‘normal’ operations, while continuing to protect their residents.

“My sense is that we are in this for the long haul, with ups and downs and twists and turns. I also believe that we will eventually return back to our previous normalcy, not to a ‘new normal’ as so many have proffered. So try and help those around you understand the gravity of what needs to be done, but let’s do so in a manner that shows the ‘better angels of our nature’ as citizens of this wonderful Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Kartchner recalled that back in early April, he had predicted such a situation in a Facebook post in early April, quoting from it: “We will see cases and fatalities rise in the short term, even though we are trying to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Now, as June ends, that has proven the case, he said.

“We saw a large spike in cases in the health district,” Kartchner wrote. “The communities responded and cases have subsided again. As you recall, the reason for the stay-at-home order was to ‘flatten the curve,’ to ensure that hospitals and providers of health care were not overwhelmed with illness. We ‘put a lid’ on the disease as we stayed away from one another. It stands to reason that if that lid is lifted, in the form of relaxed recommendations, then cases will rise again--particularly as we venture out more this summer and as school opens in the fall.”

Statistically, Culpeper County has more COVID-19 cases per capita than some Virginia jurisdictions but fewer than many, he said.

“We are in the middle of the pack overall, and doing well considering we are so close to areas in Northern Virginia which have been hit much harder,” Kartchner told the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

“In terms of hospitalizations and deaths, our district has a relatively low rate compared to other nearby districts,” he said. “Regarding cases, at one point, Culpeper County had the 8th-highest number of cases per 100,000 people and the 11th-highest absolute number of cases compared to all other jurisdictions. That has dropped to 12th-highest per 100,000 and the 17th-highest absolute number.

“The cases in Culpeper have slowed down considerably,” Kartchner added. “The high numbers that drove this were mostly due to the disease in the Latino population, and that has diminished appreciably.”

The Virginia Department of Health’s latest report, on Sunday evening, recorded 1,434 COVID-19 cases in the five-county district. They broke down as follows: Culpeper, 808; Fauquier, 417; Madison, 43; Orange, 146; Rappahannock, 20.

A week prior, on Sunday, June 21, the district recorded 1,402 cases, as follows: Culpeper, 795; Fauquier, 409; Madison, 43; Orange, 138; and Rappahannock, 17.

The regional health district will reopen its five clinics on July 6, by appointment only due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to communicate with those patients/clients on a personal level to avoid a rush, as we are opening up gradually and gently, with many safeguards in place,” Kartchner told the Star-Exponent.

The district’s staff members will not see walk-in patients.

For more details on COVID-19 cases in the district and Virginia, see the health department’s web pages at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/.

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(1) comment

Dan Jenkins

The region has only had about 100 hospitalizations over the entire course of this pandemic... should we have killed the restaurant industry to prostect people from a virus that affects less than 1% of the population and kills a fraction of a percent of those (typically already frail). We need to be honest about priorities and social security doesn’t exist if young people aren’t working.

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