Alexandria experiences mini COVID-19 case surge

Alexandria experiences mini COVID-19 case surge
(Graphic/Lyvi Sieg)

By Denise Dunbar |

While the number of Alexandrians who have received the COVID-19 vaccine is steadily rising, the city is nonetheless in the midst of a mini surge of cases.

The number of city residents age 16 and older who are at least partially vaccinated against the new coronavirus was 21.8% as of Tuesday, while 14.3% were fully vaccinated. However, Alexandria’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases rose by a concerning 78% between March 10, when it was 15.1, and Sunday, when it hit 26.9, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.

The seven-day average of cases dropped each of the next two days, to 25.6 on Monday and 24 on Tuesday, which still represents an increase of 58.9% since March 10.

The local case surge somewhat mirrors case trends in Virginia, the United States as a whole and Europe, which, after a few months of declining cases, have all experienced a recent surge caused in part by the arrival of much more contagious strains of the new coronavirus.

Statewide, the seven-day average number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents rose from 15.5 on March 10 to 17.1 on Sunday, an increase of 10.3%. The Virginia case average has nudged slightly down in the past two days to 16.9, according to VDH. The city’s current seven-day average of cases per 100,000 residents is slightly below the statewide average, at 14.9, even though Alexandria’s surge during the past 13 days has been greater.

There also has been a 2.5% recent uptick in cases throughout the country. The seven-day average of new cases nationwide on March 13 was 53,754, but had risen to 55,083 as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Europe’s surge began earlier and has been more pronounced than that in the United States to date. The new coronavirus variants also reached Europe first while vaccination efforts in Europe have lagged behind those in the U.S.

For instance, according to Reuters, which tracks COVID-19 data in 240 countries, there were 132,907 actual new COVID-19 infections in Europe on Feb. 20, but 221,086 on March 18. According to Reuters, more than one-third of new cases currently being reported worldwide each day are in Europe.

The COVID-19 positivity rate has also climbed in Alexandria this month. Though not quite as dramatic as the average case total surge, the city’s positivity rate rose by 40% between March 11, when it was 3.5%, to March 19, when it hit 4.9%, the latest date for which there was data as of the Times’ deadline. Testing data lags behind that of caseload reporting on the VDH website.

Despite the recent increase in positive cases, it is instructive to look at Alexandria’s positivity rate data with a long view. That 3.5% positivity rate on March 11 tied with Nov. 3, 2020 as the second lowest seven-day positivity rate in Alexandria since COVID-19 testing began last year. The lowest seven-day positivity rate was 3.3% back on Oct. 14, 2020.

While Alexandria’s current average positivity rate of 4.9% is higher than those of Maryland, which is 4.5%, and the District of Columbia, which is 4.1%, it is lower than Virginia’s statewide average rate of 5.6%.