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Culpeper area seeing slow growth in COVID cases
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Culpeper area seeing slow growth in COVID cases

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On Saturday morning, Virginia saw 125,727 cases of COVID-19—948 new cases since Friday, the state Department of Health reported.

The state’s positivity rate fell slightly to 7.7 percent.

Since the pandemic began, Virginia has had 858 novel coronavirus outbreaks, which contributed to 18,006 cases.

Virginia’s last two holiday weekends caused cases to spike, Gov. Ralph Northam said earlier in the week, announcing that he would not lift any COVID-19 restrictions.

“I understand from a business perspective the importance of Labor Day, but we have come too far to go back,” Northam said. “With back to school coming in different forms and with colleges returning, now is the time to double down on what is working so we can set ourselves up for success this fall.”

Northam said his decision comports with advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.

On the disease’s current course, the Virginia Department of Health said new modeling predicts that confirmed cases will peak the week ending Oct. 18 with 8,319 weekly cases. If cases continue on that trajectory, the department expects 203,492 confirmed cases by Thanksgiving.

The projected increase in weekly cases probably reflects schools beginning to reopen, the agency said. Virginians’ disease transmission could increase even more with the pending changes of season, more in-school education, the advent of flu season, and changing weather patterns, it said.

It’s too early to know what impact seasonal effects will have, the department said. Its model assumes a 10 to 20 percent increase in transmissibility beginning on Labor Day.

The Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, which serves five counties, is seeing “slow growth” in COVID-19 cases, the department said.

The Virginia Department of Health’s latest data, on Friday evening, recorded 2,337 COVID-19 cases in the district, as follows: Culpeper, 1,128; Fauquier, 792; Madison, 92; Orange, 269; Rappahannock, 56.

Culpeper’s COVID-19 positivity rate, which has recently been fluctuating, was 7.4 percent on Thursday, the Health Department said. It had been declining for five days.

The number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, which also has been fluctuating, had been decreasing for seven days, the department said.

Since the pandemic began, Culpeper County has had more COVID-19 cases per capita than other Virginia jurisdictions, including some in heavily populated Northern Virginia.

On Friday, 1,098 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the commonwealth, and Virginia hospitals had discharged 15,646 such patients, the Virginia Hospital & Health Association reported. Of those, 243 were in intensive-care units, and 121 were on ventilators, VHHA said.

“Schools have begun to re-open, leading to outbreaks in universities. Weather patterns are beginning to change and with that comes the start of the flu season,” the Health Department’s weekly report stated. “When Virginia last entered a period of significant change following the transition to Phase III of the Forward Virginia Plan, we observed a second peak in cases statewide. The upcoming seasonal changes could bring a similar, or even larger, increase in cases. This is a critical time for Virginians to modify behavior and place extra emphasis on safety and health.”

On Tuesday, the regional health director likened his agency’s experience of recent weeks to the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day. “Same story, just a different day,” wrote Dr. Wade Kartchner, director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District.

“Case investigations and contact tracing, nursing home and other congregate settings needing advice, schools burning up the phone lines with questions, planning for vaccine in the near future, meeting with community partners, responding to complaints about masks and numbers of people in a business, interacting with the media- all of these and many other COVID-related tasks are being performed every day,” Kartchner emailed the district’s email followers.

Many of the district’s residents have gotten used to the “new normal,” he wrote.

“It can seem to be a grind, but we need to continue that battle for a while longer. I hear from many that they wish they could ‘cancel’ COVID-19,” Kartchner wrote. “If that were only the case … it is here and we in the health department would remind everyone that it will be with us for the near-term.

The physician urged people to maintain their awareness of health risks and to be mindful of others.

“Assume good intent on the part of others. Be the one to change the conversation for the better,” Kartchner wrote. “Remember the things that keep us safe. Watch your distance, Wear a mask when you can’t maintain that distance, and Wash your hands.”

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

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Clint Schemmer, a journalist since 1980, has worked at papers in California, North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been a bureau chief, editorial-page editor, copy desk chief and local news editor. Now a staff writer at the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

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