COVID-19 Hospitalizations Hit Record As Youngkin Lifts Mandates

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VIRGINIA — New COVID-19 cases rose across Virginia on Wednesday, and hospitalizations remain at a record high as Gov. Glenn Youngkin issues orders to relax measures intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, 12,480 new COVID-19 cases were reported, up from the 10,248 new cases reported Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The 7-day percent positivity rate for PCR tests now stands at 32.o percent in Virginia, down from a pandemic high of 36.2 percent on Jan. 7.

In its latest update, issued on Jan. 14, the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute said signs suggest the growth in cases may be slowing, but that cases in all 35 health districts in the state remain in the institute's "surge" classification.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association on Wednesday reported a 7-day moving average of 3,875 hospitalizations of people with COVID-19, a record high since the start of the pandemic.

Among the people hospitalized on Wednesday, 655 are in intensive care units and 385 are receiving ventilator support in Virginia hospitals.

The record number of hospitalizations of Virginians with COVID-19 comes as at least four state colleges have ended their vaccine mandates for employees in compliance with a directive from Youngkin, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison, Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary will no longer require their employees to be vaccinated. Student vaccine requirements and masking mandates will still be in place at the four colleges, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Youngkin also issued an executive order on Jan. 15 lifting a mask mandate at public schools in the state. The order states that, starting Jan. 24, parents of elementary and secondary school students “may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.”

Several Northern Virginia school districts have announced their intent to continue requiring masks after Jan. 24.

The University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute, in its weekly update, said residents should continue to practice good prevention, including indoor masking and getting vaccinated — and boosted when eligible.

"Omicron is less severe than Delta, but this surge is causing a large increase of hospitalizations, which could reach record levels in the coming weeks," the UVA researchers said. "Vaccines and boosters remain very effective at protecting against hospitalization and death from the Omicron variant."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the omicron variant now accounts for about 98 percent of new cases in the mid-Atlantic region.

This article originally appeared on the Falls Church Patch

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