As summer rolls into fall, new cases of COVID-19 continue to decline across the nation, state and region of Fredericksburg, where the most recent numbers four weeks ago were about a third of their total.
“Things are on the decline,” said Allison Balmes-John, public information officer for the Rappahannock Area Health District. “We see that as a really good sign.”
She cited multiple positive readings in the health district, which includes Fredericksburg and Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties. As of Friday, 387 new cases were reported in the health district over the past seven days.
Four weeks earlier, on Friday, Aug. 26, the district reported 1,109 people tested positive for the week — and that doesn’t include people who test at home and don’t report the results to the state.
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Hospitalizations haven’t taken the same nosedive but have stabilized somewhat, according to data. There were 28 people in the region’s three hospitals as of Friday, compared with 37 patients four weeks ago.
Additionally, measurements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the community level, which looks at the number of people hospitalized with COVID and the overall impact on the health care system, has fallen from a high level five weeks ago to a low level for the full year Region.
Another measurement, transmission level — which assesses the presence and spread of the virus in a community — remains high across the local health district, according to the CDC.
The other indicator of the impact of COVID is deaths, which tend to lag behind reports of new cases and hospitalizations. Twelve deaths from the virus have been reported in the past five weeks, according to the RAHD.
Boosters are also available this fall season to offer better protection against the recent contagious strains of Omicron – and Spotsylvania County’s Caroline Hayden and her husband have both received the latest vaccination.
“I believe the risk for us in our 80s for COVID is greater,” she wrote in an email. “We wouldn’t think of getting the bivalent one,” the booster that combines protection against the original strain of the virus and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.
People who got Pfizer or Moderna shots can get a bivalent booster at least two months later, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The recordings are similar and can be swapped out, although as Hayden said, many people tend to stick with the manufacturer they started with like they did with Moderna.
The only difference is that the Pfizer vaccine is for people 12 and older and Moderna is for people 18 and older.
For more information on specific recommendations for younger children and immunocompromised individuals, see vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
As of Tuesday, 61% of people age 5 and older, 66% of adults and 82% of seniors were fully vaccinated, according to the state health department. However, less than half of them received a second booster shot.
Some people have complained about getting booster shots all the time, but Hayden said she sees it this way: “People seem to forget how many shots are needed for school kids and travel anyway. Just add COVID to the yearly list.”
Speaking of things to do each fall, late September and early October are the best times to get the annual flu shot, and Balmes-John suggests people start thinking about when to schedule appointments. Interested parties can get both vaccines at the same time — or even in the same arm — if they’re so inclined, she said.
Each local health district in the RAHD offers immunization clinics with COVID vaccines and bivalent booster shots one day per week. The courses take place on Mondays in Spotsylvania; Fredericksburg and King George, Tuesdays; and Stafford and Caroline, on Wednesdays.
“We’re pretty much booked up for the next few weeks,” Balmes-John said at several clinics, underscoring the need to make an appointment.
Residents can also go online to Vaccines.gov to schedule appointments for COVID boosters or flu shots at local pharmacies, grocery stores, and public health departments.
RAHD also plans to offer bivalent boosters at the LaRumba Latinx Festival on Saturday, October 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg.