By Denise Dunbar | [email protected]
COVID-19 is surging in both Alexandria and throughout Virginia, though the official case count may be significantly underreported. Whites are dying at a higher rate relative to their overall percentage of the population than other demographic groups. Conversely, Latinos have a minuscule death rate in the past 13 weeks both statewide and locally despite contracting COVID-19 at a rate close to their proportion of the overall population.
Alexandria Health Director Dr. David Rose said the current undercount in reported cases may be because of expanded home testing.
“It is always the case with any surveillance there’s potentially an undercount for any reason,” Rose said. “We’re hearing the same sorts of things [about the uptick in COVID-19 cases and that many are unreported]. That’s why it’s important for people to get the booster as soon as possible as well as the flu booster. Getting a booster is a way of replenishing your immune response. It’s like recharging the battery in your vehicle.”
Rose said that the rise in reported COVID-19 cases in Alexandria coupled with the arrival of flu season and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus is straining the capacity of hospital resources in Northern Virginia.
“INOVA, on November 29th, put out a press release saying their emergency rooms are at capacity because of a triple virus [threat]. We are seeing an increase across all of those influenza like illnesses: the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. Those are being seen across the state and region,” Rose said. “RSV is not a reportable illness at this time, but we are seeing impacts of all the respiratory illnesses across our system.”
In Alexandria, whites have accounted for five of the seven local COVID-19 deaths in the past 13 weeks, which is 71%, despite comprising 51.5% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the past 13 weeks, whites have contracted 49% of the COVID-19 cases in Alexandria for which there is an ethnic designation, according to the Virginia Department of Health website.
Statewide these numbers are both more stark and statistically more valid because of the higher numbers involved: Whites account for 60.3% of Virginia’s population, have contracted 65% of COVID-19 cases in the past 13 weeks – 193,076 out of 296,419 cases with a reported ethnic designation – but account for 86% of the 2,294 COVID-19 deaths in the last three months.
In contrast, there were no reported Latino deaths from COVID-19 in Alexandria in the past 13 weeks, while Latinos accounted for less than 1% of COVID-19 deaths statewide. Latinos account for 16.5% of the total population in Alexandria, and 10.2% statewide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Latinos actually contracted COVID-19 at roughly their percentage of the population in Alexandria, with 17% of the cases in the last 13 weeks. They contracted 7% of the statewide cases in that timeframe.
Blacks contracted COVID19 at reported rates close to their percentage of the population both in Alexandria and statewide, but died at much lower rates during the past 13 weeks. Blacks comprise 21.6% of Alexandria’s population and have contracted 19% of the cases, with no reported local deaths in the last three months. Statewide, Blacks make up 20% of all Virginians and contracted 18% of all reported COVID-19 cases with an ethnic designation, while accounting for 11% of COVID-19 deaths during that time frame.
There were two reported deaths of people of Asian/Pacific Islander ethnicity in Alexandria during the last 13 weeks, or 29% of the seven total local COVID-19 deaths. This appears to be a statistical anomaly, as the Asian/Pacific Islander death rate statewide during the past 13 weeks is 2%, which is lower than that group’s 7.3% total percentage of Virginia’s population.
COVID-19 deaths continue to be overwhelmingly of older people, both in Alexandria and Virginia as a whole. In Alexandria, six of the seven recent deaths were of residents age 80 and older, with one death occurring in the age 40 to 49 category. Statewide, 50% of the 2,294 COVID-19 deaths in the last 13 weeks were of people age 80 and older, and fully 90% were of people age 60 and older. No one under age 30 has died of COVID-19 in Virginia in the last 13 weeks.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are also rising across the state. As of Tuesday, there were 746 current hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health website, with 82 patients currently in intensive care and 22 of those on ventilators.
Rose said Northern Virginia is also experiencing this increase in hospitalizations.
“Hospitalizations are going up but not to the levels seen earlier in the pandemic,” he said.
Rose emphasized that preventative measures remain the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19, along with the flu and RSV.
“We are really trying to get the public to see that prevention measures are still important. They work across all viruses. Masking, not going out while sick, make sure you’re washing your hands. All of those things we were pounding the drum for during COVID, still apply, especially for the elderly,” Rose said.