According to Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Public Health District, in her weekly interview Tuesday with the media, “It is likely that we are peaking with this Delta surge and expect to start seeing new case counts declining in future weeks.”
She cautioned, however, that hospitalizations and deaths lag new case numbers by several weeks, so the district’s healthcare resources will continue to be under strain.
Dr. Bissell said that some people are confused by the descriptions of different levels of the disease. So, to provide some clarity, she presented the press with a brief overview:
MILD COVID-19, which is the situation with most individuals. One might feel really bad, but doesn’t develop pneumonia or low blood oxygen levels, and doesn’t require medical attention. MODERATE COVID-19: One may have evidence of pneumonia and may present with shortness of breath, but individuals don’t require hospitalization or supplemental oxygen.
SEVERE COVID-19: One has much worse symptoms of pneumonia, including shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels requiring hospitalization; progression to some lung damage can often be seen on chest imaging.
CRITICAL COVID-19: These cases are those who develop respiratory failure, shock, multiple organ dysfunction and have a high chance of death.
Though we are optimistic that the Delta surge is peaking, that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.” the health district director warned. “There is still a lot of sickness and loss that our community will experience. The Delta variant is highly contagious, and we should expect it to take time for cases to decrease significantly.
“We have several tools to fight this pandemic, what we call layered mitigation, including vaccines, masks, ventilation, hand washing, and distancing. All of these make a difference, but vaccines are the most powerful tool we have. In Virginia, unvaccinated people get COVID 9.2 times more often than fully vaccinated people and 2.5 times more often than partially vaccinated people.
“I’m happy to report that more and more of our residents are getting vaccinated for the first time, but we still have a way to go,” Dr. Bissell said.
“It’s very important to mask indoors when with people outside of one’s household and to meet with people in the highly ventilated outdoors as much as possible,” she told the media. “These practices are critical to stopping the spread of the disease. We know that people can spread COVID before they get symptoms as well as while they have symptoms. We know that some people – about 1 in 5 – don’t get symptoms, but can still spread the disease. We also know that vaccinated people can get COVID, but the vast majority have milder disease and are contagious for a shorter time.
“We have been battling this pandemic for at least a year and a half,” Dr. Bissell said. “This is not a time for COVID absolutism or moral outrage. We all need to take responsibility for protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. We know what to do. Lockdowns and mandates are not good strategies.
“We are hearing that some of our business leaders have been waiting for mask mandates or vaccine mandates from government authorities, believing that if there is no mandate, it’s not a serious surge. Businesses and employers need to make decisions based on their own situation.
“We do offer assistance through the New River Business Continuity Team. Please contact Ashley Briggs, email@example.com if you are looking for information, advice, or would like a representative to chat with your team.
“I’d also like to remind everyone that flu season is approaching, and encourage all to get a flu shot,” Dr. Bissell said. “We were able to keep flu to a minimum last year, mostly through distancing, masking and handwashing.
“With the strain that COVID is putting on our healthcare system, it’s important again this year to keep flu to a minimum. We’ll be announcing flu vaccine clinics in the coming weeks and will have COVID vaccines at the same time.”