COVID-19 cases up in Hampton Roads; health experts warn it may be worse than the numbers show

Coronavirus

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — With increasing COVID-19 cases around the commonwealth and here in Hampton Roads, health officials are urging people to continue to take the virus seriously.

More than 500 new cases and two new deaths in Hampton Roads were reported by the Virginia Department of Health on Monday.

Lisa Engle, an epidemiologist for the Chesapeake Department of Health, says they’ve been busy. She wants people to realize how bad the virus is.

“If everyone did the right thing and did social distancing and [wore] their mask when they can’t [distance], this could be slowed down bigtime until we get this vaccine on-hand,” she said.

Engle says colder weather and lax health safety precautions have been contributing to the increase.

Through contact tracing, she says they’re finding that people in smaller group settings, even if they’re outside, are spreading the virus.

“I see people in outside gatherings and they’re huddled together. If you’re standing close to people outside, that’s an issue also,” Engle said. “People need to [do] the social distancing much better than what we’re doing. I know in Hampton Roads, we’re not doing it right because I see it every day.”

Despite the increase in numbers in VDH data, Engle says there are actually more cases out there.

Engle says cases reported to the health departments have been done electronically by labs that are receiving tests results from testing locations.

Now, doctors and healthcare providers have access to quick COVID-19 tests, which are similar to flu tests, which they can perform in their office. However, providers have to manually report the cases.

Since the similar rapid flu tests in the past weren’t required to be reported, Engle says doctors also aren’t reporting COVID-19 test results, even though those are required.

“They’re supposed to report those, the positives and negatives [results] but many of the providers have not. Most have not yet reported to us correctly. So, the numbers you’re seeing are lower than what they really are. They’re already large,” she said about the number of cases.

Engle says because of this, it’s important to be safe and cautious about who you’re around.

“Any place where people gather and they’re not wearing their mask, it’s where the problem is. Everyone thinks their group is together and safe. That’s not true,” she said.

With Thanksgiving coming up, she encourages people to make smart decisions and to avoid being around those who are immunocompromised as well as those who are elderly or have diabetes or hypertension, or who are obese.

Engle recommends to those who are having Thanksgiving with their family to practice social distancing as best as possible.

“Try to do it outdoors,” she said. “We’ve been having nice weather so hopefully Thanksgiving will have nice weather and everyone can go outdoors to do it and have spacing. The spacing’s the most important and not have contact with too many folks.”

For more recommendations on what to do during the holidays, click here.


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