Virginia falls between its neighbors in COVID-19 surges

Virginia falls between its neighbors in COVID-19 surges
An illustration of the COVID-19 virus. (Image/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

By Denise Dunbar |

Virginia’s neighbors to the north along the Atlantic seaboard, from Maryland to Massachusetts, were hit much harder during phase one of the coronavirus pandemic: All have cumulative caseloads per 100,000 residents at least 50 percent higher than that of Virginia, according to data on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Virginia’s coastal neighbors to the south, from North Carolina to Florida, are currently experiencing soaring caseloads associated with reopening their states’ economies from the pandemic-caused shutdown.

Virginia is in between: not hit as hard by the first wave as states to the north, and not yet experiencing the recent surge of its southern neighbors.

(Case data/CDC, Chart/Lyvi Sieg)

A look at data from state websites as well as the CDC reveals how Virginia stacks up against its closest neighbors to the north and south, Maryland and North Carolina.

Different conclusions can be drawn about how a state is faring, depending on which pieces of data are examined.

For example, cumulative data totals make it clear that Maryland has been hit harder by COVID-19 than the two mid-Atlantic states to its south. Maryland has had the most cases of the three states, 67,559 as of Tuesday, despite having the smallest population at 6,045,680. That’s an infection rate of 1.12 percent of the population.

North Carolina is next, with 64,670 cases, but with a much larger total population than Maryland – 10,488,084 – according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That results in a diagnosed infection rate just over half as high, at .62 percent of the population.

While Virginia has had slightly fewer diagnosed cases than its neighbors to the north and south, 62,787 as of Tuesday, both the Commonwealth’s population of 8,535,519 and infection rate of .74 percent fall in between that of Maryland and North Carolina.

Maryland has also had considerably more total hospitalizations than Virginia, 10,844 compared to 6,203, with North Carolina’s total unreported on its COVID-19 website.

Other, and perhaps more important, measures indicate that Maryland is in the best current shape of the three states.

As of Tuesday, both North Carolina and Virginia had more than 900 current hospitalizations, with 908 and 902 respectively, according to the North Carolina Department of Health website and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association website. Conversely, Maryland had only half as many current hospitalizations – 452, according to the Maryland Department of Health. North Carolina was trending in almost the exact opposite direction as Maryland, as its current hospitalization level increased by 40 percent from June 1 to June 30.

Maryland also easily had the lowest seven-day moving average positive test rate of the three states, at 4.81 percent as of Monday. Virginia’s seven-day average positive rate was 6 percent as of June 26, while North Carolina’s rate was almost double that of Maryland, at 9 percent.

The City of Alexandria’s seven-day moving average positive rate was 5.4 percent as of June 26.

Another way of measuring whether a state is trending up or down is to examine a state’s number of new cases in the past week and calculate those cases as a percentage of the state’s overall case total.

The CDC website lists each state’s new cases in the last week along with its total cases on an interactive map. Maryland again fares the best and North Carolina by far the worst of the three mid-Atlantic states.

Maryland had 2,956 new COVID-19 cases in the last seven days for which the CDC site had data, which comprised 4.4 percent of its total caseload. Virginia was next, with 4,322 new cases in the last seven days, which is 6.9 percent of its total. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s 10,683 new cases make up 16.8 percent of its overall caseload.

While much higher than that of Virginia and Maryland, North Carolina’s weekly increase in cases doesn’t rank in the top five of states nationwide in number and percentage of new cases – though two of its Atlantic coastal neighbors to the south do.

Florida easily had the most new cases of any state in the past seven days, with 48,666, which is more than a third of its total caseload of 143,805. The state with the next biggest jump in percentage of new cases was Arizona, with 22,143 new cases, comprising 29.7 percent of its total caseload of 74,533. South Carolina was next, with its 9,951 new cases making up 28.7 percent of its total caseload of 34,644.

Rounding out the top five were Texas and California, which had 41,410 and 42,726 new cases respectively in the last week. Those encompass 27.1 and 19.7 percent respectively of each state’s total number of COVID-19 cases.

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