ANALYSIS: COVID-19 cases more than doubled in past week

ANALYSIS: COVID-19 cases more than doubled in past week
An illustration of the COVID-19 virus. (Image/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

By Denise Dunbar

Cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria more than doubled in the seven days ending on Tuesday, apparently fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant combined with indoor holiday gatherings. As of Dec. 21, there had been 551.1 total confirmed cases per 100,000 residents in the preceding seven days. By Tuesday, that number had swelled to 1,122 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in the last week, according to the City of Alexandria website.

As of Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health website, the seven-day average number of actual cases, in total and not per 100,000 residents, was 263. This means there were roughly 1,841 new confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria in the last seven days.

So far, this unprecedented spike in cases has not translated into equivalent surges in hospitalizations or deaths in Alexandria. While hospitalizations are up since the beginning of December, the current hospitalization rate is lower than it was during the Delta-variant fueled surge in September and October.

Likewise, there had been fewer COVID-19 related deaths, two, in December through Monday than in either November, when there were six, or October, when there were five. On Tuesday, the VDH added 167 deaths statewide that were attributed to COVID-19 to its dashboard, including four in Alexandria. However, these were not new fatalities, but instead they were Virginia residents who died of COVID-19 in a state other than Virginia in 2020.

The VDH website stated: “There is a long delay before Virginia receives these death reports. VDH assesses out-of-state death reports at the end of the following year. This is a routine data quality step taken each year. VDH reviews all reported COVID-19 deaths to make sure data are complete and accurate.”

For more information on deaths from COVID-19 in Virginia, see the blog post How Does VDH Count COVID-19 Associated Deaths.

Alexandria’s COVID-19 positivity rate also surged in the past 10 days: the seven-day COVID-19 positivity average was 14.5% as of Tuesday, up from 8.6% on Dec. 18. While more people are getting tested for COVID-19 than previously, a significantly higher percentage are also testing positive. Both the absolute number of tests and the rapidly climbing positivity rate are fueling the current surge.

The fact that this exponential increase in absolute cases has not yet resulted in corresponding leaps in severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 is almost certainly attributable to Alexandria’s high vaccination rate. In Alexandria, 79.8% of residents age 5 and older are at least partially vaccinated, which translates into 122,726 residents with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is just a hair under Alexandria’s long-stated goal of an 80% vaccination rate. Meanwhile, 68.7% of city residents are fully vaccinated. These vaccination rate totals do not include booster shots.