Health experts worry as COVID-19 cases rise, despite increased vaccinations

‘This is not just an innocent virus’

As COVID-19 cases increase across the country, despite increased vaccinations, health experts fear another potential surge in the pandemic.

“We’ve seen more recent surges again and lockdowns. We don’t want that to happen here,” said Carilion Clinic’s Chair of Medicine Dr. Paul Skolnik.

Across the country, new COVID-19 cases are up 16% on average from last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data. It’s a troublesome trend in Virginia too where cases are up nearly 4.4% this week.

“This recent increase is worrisome because that’s been the pattern. Around Thanksgiving, around Christmas and other times we’ve seen surges, that’s how it starts” said Skolnik.

Skolnik said three things could be to blame:

  1. Governors are easing restrictions, opening up restaurants, businesses and social gatherings.
  2. People are traveling more. Flying, especially, is a high-risk activity even for those who’ve been vaccinated.
  3. There are new variants of the virus spreading around the country that can be more contagious.

No matter the cause of the increase, Fincastle resident Lynda Crosby and Franklin County resident Nick Colliver have noticed COVID-19 fatigue.

“People are tired. People have gotten complacent,” said Crosby.

“I feel like people have gotten lax with masks and stuff along those lines,” said Colliver.

In a statement from Virginia Dept. of Health State Epidemiologist Lilian Peake, MD, MPH, she writes:

“I am not aware of any studies that show one specific cause tied to the recent increase in cases. We have not yet reached herd immunity and the level of transmission of the virus remains high. It’s likely that all of those factors play a role. We are seeing cases occur across all ages but a disproportionate number are occurring in younger age groups. We are seeing outbreaks in a number of settings.

It’s critical that Virginians continue to take steps to stop the spread. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn. Maintain physical distancing. Wear a mask in public. Get tested and stay home if you’ve been exposed [to COVID-19] or have symptoms.”

According to the CDC, 15.5% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Skolnik said it’ll take 60-70% to reach herd immunity.

He said health experts are fighting vaccine hesitancy just like they’re fighting the virus, which is why he said it’s critical to continue to follow health and safety guidelines.

“If you are looking around you, pretty much everyone around you has known someone that’s died from COVID-19,” said Skolnik. “And that’s a stark reminder that this is not just an innocent virus.”


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