At a recent press conference Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District and one of the lead members of the NRV Public Health Task Force, warned of pandemic fatigue, saying “We continue to have a community spread of COVID-19, and we are seeing signs that people are getting tired of taking precautions.
“In Montgomery County,” Dr. Bissell said, “Most of the cases had been the student population; however, these past two weeks, community spread is becoming about half of the cases. The students continue to spread COVID in their social circles, and the community in their social circles, but the two are not spreading the virus outside their groups.
“In Radford,” Dr. Bissell said, “We have had a bump related to social activities with students and workers, but that is coming back down. We have 10 outbreaks in the New River district: four in long-term care settings, two in higher ed and four in other congregate settings.”
Dr. Bissell called attention to what appears to be one possible factor in the community spread: carpooling. “We have noticed a number of transmissions in carpools recently,” she said. “These are workers who wear masks and follow policies on site at work, then hop in the car together without masks to go to lunch or commute home. We are also seeing carpools between families going to soccer practice, social activities or school, where the children are not wearing masks.
“We are also seeing people who have gotten a test who continue to socialize or go to work while they wait for results,” Dr. Bissell said. “We ask everybody who has a test because of high risk contact or symptoms, to please quarantine and wait for the results.
As of Wednesday, Oct. 28, the most recent COVID-19 update from the New River Valley Public Health Task Force said 17 COVID-19-positive patients are hospitalized and three persons are under investigation in the New River Valley Health District, which serves the NRV through local health departments in Floyd, Gilas, Montgomery and Pulaski counties and the City of Radford.
On Oct. 28, the NRV Health District reported 49 new cases to the Virginia Department of Health: two in Floyd County, one in Giles County, 37 in Montgomery County, three in Pulaski County and six in Radford City.
That total indicates incidents of the virus are on the rise as the seven-day average across the district as of October 28 was 46 cases. Since the outbreak of the virus, the health district has reported 4,404 total cases with 76 hospitalizations and 27 deaths.
“While we fight this COVID fatigue,” Dr. Bissell said, “We also face three events in the next two weeks that can spread the disease in our community. These are Halloween, Day of the Dead and the election. These are all events where we typically enjoy getting together in communities.
“We also want to remind everybody that each person has the power to control their own exposure,” Dr. Bissell said at her press conference. “You have the power to not go to that park that has too many people there for your comfort. You have the power to kindly tell your friend that you are not comfortable meeting indoors, but you are happy to meet outside at a distance.
“Many regions in the country and around the world are seeing cases rise. There is no reason we have to accept this,” Dr. Bissell said. “We know how to stop the spread. Please wear your mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands. Hospitalizations throughout the Southwest Virginia region are up.”