DANVILLE, Va. — Although COVID-19 cases in Danville and Pittsylvania County are at least three times higher now than a year ago, the increased infection level isn’t sounding alarm bells.
For a population that has broken free of pandemic precautions, it’s business — and life — as normal, as if a mutating virus isn’t still lurking.
Another reason for the subdued response is because — to date — these subvariants aren’t causing an increase in severe COVID-19 illnesses, according to Brookie Crawford, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health.
“While cases are up, reports of severe cases, hospitalizations and visits to the emergency department are not climbing,” she told the (Danville) Register & Bee on Friday.
Sovah Health is currently treating 15 patients for COVID-19 between campuses in Danville and Martinsville, spokesperson Hailey Fowlkes confirmed Friday. That’s about five more than the middle of July.
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“Additionally, COVID-19 treatments are available for people who may need it, and can help prevent severe illness in certain patients to help keep them out of the hospital,” Crawford explained.
Most people with mild symptoms recover with at-home treatments.
“People who are at high risk for severe illness should contact their health care provider after a positive test or after symptoms start (even if mild), to see if they may need treatment,” she said. “They may benefit from medications to help reduce the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
However, to be effective, those treatments should begin in the first few days of experiencing symptoms.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Dr. Scott Spillmann, director of the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District, said about the current caseloads. He said while cases are up, they are starting to see a decrease.
By the numbers, Danville is adding about 25 new COVID-19 cases per day. In Pittsylvania County, 35 new cases are loaded into the record books each day. But those figures don’t count the at-home test kits widely available now.
In fact, the University of Virginia now estimates that for every one COVID-19 case officially recorded, there are about 16 others that fly under the radar.
“With home tests, people are more likely to take test and to take action,” Spillmann said. “Hospitalizations and deaths are down.”
In Virginia, there’s a mixed bag of trajectories, according to U.Va.’s latest report Friday. The Pittsylvania-Danville Health District is in a slow growth category, meaning cases are rising but not at a level to be considered a surge.
Other districts are showing a decline as national rates also start to slow.
However, 122 out of the 133 localities in the commonwealth are in medium or high community levels, designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Danville and Pittsylvania County are in the medium level, which carries a recommendation for people at high-risk for illnesses to consider wearing a mask. Over in neighboring Halifax County, the level is high, which triggers a suggestion for everyone to mask up in public indoor settings.
Throughout the pandemic, masking has been especially important for asymptomatic people — individuals who show no signs of the illness, but are unknowingly spreading it to others.
“Asymptomatic patients will always be of concern, however we hope that they are vigilant to any minor symptom or whether they have been around others who were positive or symptomatic,” Chris Garrett, local health emergency coordinator with the health department, told the Register & Bee.
“Those positive cases with minimal symptoms that continue on with their daily lives do put those with immunity issues at greater risk of severe illness,” he said.
Everyone should stay alert for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, Crawford explained.
“Core public health measures, such as — getting vaccinated and boosted when you are eligible, getting tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms or an exposure, following your health care provider’s treatment recommendations, staying home and separating from others when recommended and wearing masks — remain extremely useful to control the virus and surge of cases,” she said.