VIRGINIA — As cases of the coronavirus continue to climb, Virginia passed another grim benchmark in the last 24 hours, topping 300,000 total cases of the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease. Even more troubling, an updated model by the University of Virginia predicts the state will be battered by a huge surge of 13 times as many cases before vaccines reach most residents.
The Commonwealth has confirmed 302,972 coronavirus cases to date, the Virginia Department of Health dashboard showed Saturday. A total of 4,643 deaths have been caused by the disease. There were 45 new deaths reported daily on Thursday through Saturday, and the seven-day average of daily death reports is 45.
The health department reported 3,584 new cases Saturday, up from 3,295 on Friday. From the start of the pandemic in the spring it took about five months for the state to confirm its first 100,000 cases on Aug. 9, Inside NOVA reported. As the infection spread it took just over three months to reach 200,000 total cases on Nov. 14, and 35 days to surpass 300,000 cases.
New confirmed coronavirus cases peaked around 7,500 per week several times this summer. But a new model from the university's Biocomplexity Institute, released Friday, predicts that the post-Thanksgiving surge could produce a surge of weekly new cases peaking between 68,000 and 98,000 in late January or early February.
This is three times higher than the institute's projection from a week ago and shows the effect that Thanksgiving gatherings had on the rise in cases, researchers said.
"Cold weather, time indoors, and pandemic fatigue, spurred by holiday travel and gatherings, increase the risk of transmission," the U.Va. report said. "Meanwhile, the impact of new vaccines, while promising, will not be felt for several months. These risks have now been realized. Early data indicates that the post-Thanksgiving surge is large. If compounded with surges accompanying Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter holidays, it could be a long, cold winter."
The current surge in Virginia began early in the fall, and cases exceeded summer peaks by mid- November, the report said. The UVA model projects almost 34,000 new confirmed cases for the week ending this Sunday, Dec. 20.
"If cases continue to grow at this rate and in this manner, we can expect over 98,000 per week in early February," the U.Va. report said. "This is 13 times higher than the peaks seen over the summer."
The statewide seven-day average of daily cases reached a peak of 3,920 on Dec. 12 before starting to decline in recent days. The latest average is 3,564. New cases by region include 951 in the southwest region, 768 in the northern region, 725 in the eastern region, 578 in the northwest region, and 562 in the central region.
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Current COVID-19 hospitalizations stand at 2,429 state, up by 20 from Friday, which includes 495 in the intensive care units and 264 on ventilators. Patients by region include 615 in the northern region, 516 in the eastern region, 453 in the southwest region, 394 in the northwest region, and 431 in the central region.
According to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, ventilator use among all hospital patients is at 32 percent capacity, and ICU occupancy is at 55 percent.
Virginia Department of Health was expecting to receive 480,000 doses of vaccine from two manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, in December. But on Thursday the state was told it will receive 370,650 doses instead, according to a VDH news release.
The top priority groups in Virginia to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are health care personnel and long-term care facilities residents. This week, 18 hospitals across the state received their first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, with 72,125 doses being dispersed to frontline healthcare workers. Virginia has placed an order with Moderna for 146,400 doses of its vaccine.
Below are the latest coronavirus data updates for our coverage area from Wednesday to Thursday:
Alexandria: 6,533 cases, 411 hospitalizations, 82 deaths; increase of 77 cases and two hospitalizations
Arlington County: 7,821 cases, 633 hospitalizations, 168 deaths; increase of 111 cases, no new hospitalizations or deaths
Fairfax County: 38,738 cases, 2,766 hospitalizations, 653 deaths; increase of 261 cases, 14 hospitalizations and two deaths
Fairfax City: 264 cases, 24 hospitalizations, 10 deaths; increase of three cases, no new hospitalizations
Falls Church: 147 cases, 16 hospitalizations, six deaths; increase of six cases
Loudoun County: 12,503 cases, 620 hospitalizations, 155 deaths; increase of 117 cases and four hospitalizations
Manassas: 2,653 cases, 145 hospitalizations, 29 deaths; increase of 10 cases
Manassas Park: 854 cases, 62 hospitalizations, eight deaths; increase of seven cases
Prince William County: 22,355 cases, 1,176 hospitalizations, 247 deaths; increase of 182 cases, 10 hospitalizations
Fredericksburg: 897 cases, 62 hospitalizations, nine deaths; increase of 14 cases, one hospitalization and one death
Spotsylvania County: 3,996 cases, 198 hospitalizations, 62 deaths; increase of 22 cases, two hospitalizations and one death
Stafford County: 4,335 cases, 218 hospitalizations, 23 deaths; increase of 28 cases and one hospitalization