By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Last week as the White House observed the nation nearing 1 million people who have died of COVID-19 in America, many states, including Virginia, registered an uptick in infections. The Virginia Department of Health is reporting 1,740,753 cases of COVID-19 across the Commonwealth as of Monday, May 16, 2022, dating to the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. That is up 7,565 from the number reported on May 13. According to VDH numbers, some 372 people across Virginia were hospitalized as of May 16 with confirmed or test-pending cases of COVID-19, up from 325 on May 13.
The hospital numbers are different from those reported by VDH, which only gathers hospitalization status at the time each case is investigated by VDH and is an under-representation of Virginia hospitalizations. Per the latest update from the state’s vaccine dashboard, 15,865,180 doses of vaccine have been administered in Virginia as of Monday. Eighty-two percent of the state’s population, including ages five and above, has gotten at least one dose, with 73.5% being fully vaccinated.
As of Monday, there have been 20,322 recorded coronavirus-related deaths in the Commonwealth since the pandemic’s beginning, up by five Friday’s report.
Dr. Caitlin Pedait, the District Director of the Virginia Beach Department of Health, said that various indicators show that the city’s COVID infection rate jumped slightly. But not as high as it was in late February. She said that with the mask mandates being removed, people traveling, and more people-to-people interaction at social events, it makes sense that there is an elevation in infections.
Mask mandates are going back in place in several Northeast cities, such as Philadelphia as COVID-19 cases creep back up. Norfolk cardiologist Dr. Keith Newby said it’s important to stay vigilant during the spread of the highly- B.A.2 variant. “I think the caseloads are higher than what we’re seeing on the books because of home testing and things. I think it’s not being reported, ” Dr. Newby said during an interview with News Channel 3.
“I still run into a lot of patients who say, ‘I just got over COVID,’ or ‘I had COVID last week or last month,’ and then I look at the numbers and they’re so low and it tells me these are underreported cases.” Dr. Newby said he understands why Churchland High School in Portsmouth recently decided to switch back to virtual learning with this latest pop of COVID cases among staff, especially because there aren’t many mask mandates in place right now.
Portsmouth Public Schools (PPS) said Churchland High School would move to virtual learning temporarily, after several of the school’s staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
A spokeswoman for the school division said last week that seven employees at Churchland High School reported positive test results within 24 hours.
Additionally, Churchland High School canceled its after-school and extracurricular activities throughout that weekend. Administrators were back to normal operations on Monday, May 16. Weeks ago the Transportation (TSA) Safety Administration in coordination with CDC issued an edict removing the mask mandates for travelers on buses and planes.
Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), the largest public bus system in Hampton Roads, has removed its almost two-year mandate that people wear masks on the buses, light rail, and other services it provides. From an observation by a GUIDE reporter, despite HRT’s ending the mandate, a majority of the passengers on most of the street buses and light rail continue to wear their masks. Masks mandates in the grocery stores and other commercial sites have been removed. But people, especially the elderly and many African-Americans, still wear them.
While many churches have returned to in-person services, the number of congregants has shrunk.
Rev. James Allen, who used to be an Associate Pastor at Virginia Beach’s New Hope Baptist Church, is now the new senior pastor at Rehoboth Baptist Church in the city. He said that his congregation adheres to “modified” services which include masking, checking body temperatures at the door, and social distancing during services at Rehoboth.
He said that many elderly congregants are still involved with the services on Facebook or on virtual services.
“We know that this thing is not going away any time soon,” said Allen. “It’s a virus, so we must continue to take precautions.”
Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Gunns, the Senior Pastor at Norfolk’s 2nd Calvary Baptist Church, said his congregation went back to in-person worship services six months ago.
At this point, unless the infection rate spikes to higher levels, he says that will not change.
He said there are no temperature checks at the door and people usually sit where they want for now and the church has recorded normal levels of attendance.
Attention to vaccinations continues as people who have been vaccinated and have boosters are better protected from the virus than those who have not.
The walk-in vaccination center at Military Circle in Norfolk is open to all persons on Tuesdays from 2-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All vaccines are available. No appointments are taken.