About 2.4 percent of adult Virginians have antibodies for the coronavirus, according to preliminary findings from a statewide study.
The rates are higher among black and brown populations, with the prevalence of antibodies in the Latino population about three times higher, said state Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver during a Virginia Department of Health teleconference Wednesday.
The incomplete study, called the COVID-19 Serology Project, has so far analyzed blood samples from 3,775 out of 5,000 participants. The University of Virginia is overseeing the research.
“The big takeaway is that the overwhelming majority (of Virginians) is still vulnerable to infection,” he said.
The blood test, which assesses whether a person has developed antibodies from a previous infection, is not to be confused with the standard COVID-19 tests that check whether a person has an active infection using nasal swab specimens.
Currently, positive standard coronavirus test rates range from 9.9 to 18.6% in South Hampton Roads cities, considerably higher than the 6 percent trend across the remainder of the state.
The rate is about 8.7% on the Peninsula, up from 3.4% one month ago, Oliver said.
Public health officials are monitoring the region closely as positive tests and case counts continue to climb. From July 15 to 24, for example, Virginia Beach reported an average of 103 cases a day. On July 25, the city reported 329 new cases, more than triple the amount recorded for the previous day, Oliver said.
Contact tracers who are speaking to people recently diagnosed with COVID-19 say events where social distancing isn’t observed and masks aren’t being worn “are a factor in this disease spread,” he said.
The commissioner pointed to the data to help explain why the administration decided to impose more restrictions on Hampton Roads. A 10 p.m. alcohol sales cutoff, mandatory midnight closing of restaurants and limits on the number of people gathering are among the new orders issued Tuesday.
Oliver said he doesn’t view the increase as a “second wave” of the illness but a sign that the first wave isn’t over. Daily case counts would have to get close to zero to indicate the end of a wave, he said.
“What we’re starting to see in the Eastern region is a rebound of those cases,” Oliver said. “And we’re doing the best we can to flatten that curve once again. No one really knows whether we’ll get a second wave.”
Elisha Sauers, firstname.lastname@example.org, 757-222-3864
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