Tests, gatherings lead to more COVID-19 cases

Louisa County has seen a noticeable rise in the pace of new coronavirus cases since entering phase three of the state’s reopening plan.

At the end of June, prior to the start of phase three, Louisa County had reported 119 cases of COVID-19 since March. In the two months since, the number of new cases recorded has doubled to 238, with 47 cases reported in July and 72 new cases since Aug. 1.

The trend is consistent across the commonwealth, with many counties and cities seeing increases in the number of reported cases since the beginning of July. Albemarle County jumped from just over 400 cases to 980; the city of Charolottesville increased from 212 to 595; and Fluvanna went from 110 to 219. Some places have seen bigger spikes with different rates, but cases are up everywhere.

Ryan McKay, senior policy analyst for the Thomas Jefferson Health District, says the increase in the number of cases is due to a combination of increased testing and an increase in social gatherings during phase three.

“When you test more, you’re going to find more cases,” he said. “We want to find those cases so we can isolate anyone who tests postive and find out who they were in close proximity with to try to contain the spread.”

The good news, McKay says, is that the percent of people testing positive is beginning to trend back downward. The seven-day average for positive tests has dropped to 6.4 percent across all health districts as of Aug. 21, nearly back to where it was at the start of phase three. That means that only six of every 100 tests came back positive. That number jumped to 7.5 percent in July and has been trending downward since. In the Thomas Jefferson Health District, the rate is 5.5 percent, well down from its 8.5 percent peak in early July.

“We want to make sure to reduce the risk,” McKay said. “Everyone should wear a mask, especially when indoors, and even outside when you can’t be more than six feet apart. We want to be able to keep schools open and to keep businesses open.”

Louisa County Public Schools recorded five cases of COVID-19 in the first week after classes resumed on Aug. 13. They included four students and one staff member. None were in school last week and none are believed to have caught the virus there.

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