‘A surge on top of the surge’: COVID cases spiking in Tidewater region following holidays

Em Holter, The Daily Press

Now, that the Christmas festivities are over, the Virginia Department of Health is bracing for another surge of COVID-19 cases.

Following statewide trends, the Tidewater region has had a drastic uptick in cases in New Kent, King William and King and Queen counties. In the last month alone, they’ve seen the highest total number of cases in one day — according to health officials, it is a result of folks gathering for the holidays.

“Both King William and King and Queen cases have increased dramatically after Thanksgiving. It is too soon to tell about Christmas but we are expecting it to be a surge on top of the surge in a few weeks,” Three Rivers Health District representative Lisa Laurier said.

The Virginia Department of Health confirmed, as of Dec. 31, 1,270 coronavirus cases in King William, King and Queen and New Kent — adding to the state’s 349,584 total number of cases.

In October, the region saw 561 confirmed cases — that total has doubled in the past two months. According to both the Chickahominy and Three Rivers Health districts, they anticipate cases to increase into the new year.

“Our guess is that we’ll have more cases as we approach the beginning of January and into the second week of the month,” Chickahominy Health District representative Caitlin Hodge said. “We are anticipating, we’re hopeful that it won’t be anything we can’t help to control but we really don’t want it to be a peak like we saw after Thanksgiving.”

While the region has seen spikes throughout the pandemic, health officials said they are seeing the highest recorded totals in one day.

While the region has had fewer cases than densely populated localities, the department assesses risks based on a seven-day percentage to better gauge how rural and urban areas compare.

According to the department, the percentage is calculated by looking at the total number of people tested and the number of positive cases per 100,000.

The department considers a locality’s risk of infection rate manageable if the total number tested remains below 10% in terms of a seven-day positivity rate. But, ultimately, a 5% seven-day positivity rate is the goal.

Amid the pandemic, New Kent has the highest recorded number of cases in the region with 646 cases, resulting in 20 hospitalizations and five deaths.

According to Hodge, the health district reached an 8% seven-day positivity rate in early December. Now, it is resting at 10.5%.

In King William County, there have been 453 confirmed cases resulting in 25 hospitalizations and four deaths. In neighboring King and Queen County, there have been 171 cases resulting in 15 cases and two deaths.

According to Laurier, the two counties have seen a drastic increase in cases in December. In the beginning of the year, the two counties remained under the 5% seven-day positivity rate. In the past 10 weeks, King and Queen averaged three to four cases a week and King William averaged 12 new cases a week. Now, they’ve tripled.

“In the past two weeks, we’ve seen cases in King and Queen rise to the low to mid-20s and King William’s numbers in the 40s,” Laurier said. “It’s because people are ignoring public health warnings.”

The Virginia Department of Health is advising people to continue to practice social distancing, limit group sizes and wear masks.

For more information, visit vdh.virginia.gov.

Em Holter, emily.holter@virginiamedia.com, 757-256-6657, @EmHolterNews.