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The changes in how we view and track COVID-19

Research from the VDH and UVA found "behavior changes" may drive another surge this summer.

NORFOLK, Va. — Up and down Granby Street in Downtown Norfolk, they stand like remnants of our past: signs synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic, markers asking patrons to wear asks indoors and stand six feet apart. 

If it feels like mindsets have changed about how Virginians view the pandemic, research indicates such. 

According to recent data from UVA's Biocomplexity Institute, the number of Virginians self-reporting mask usage has declined to a rate of under 40 per 100 people, marking a roughly 50% drop compared to mid-January.

This comes at a time when cases are gradually trending upward. Thursday, the Commonwealth of Virginia added more than 2,500 new COVID cases. At one point in time, that may have been enough to raise concern over the virus's trend. Nowadays, it may feel more like a regular Thursday in the era of COVID. 

Modeling from the Biocomplexity Institute suggests another possible surge could see "case and hospitalization peaks somewhere between levels seen during the Delta and Omicron waves." 

“We’re still low today. We’re seeing a slight uptick in cases but not an uptick in severity. Not seeing the deaths or hospitalizations we were seeing," Jerry Tucker said, the public health emergency management coordinator for the Chesapeake Health Dept..

Beyond public sentiment, health leaders like Tucker have also shifted the ways in which we track COVID-19. 

Beyond raw case totals, health leaders are looking at a combination of three metrics: case rates per 100,000 over a seven day period, hospitalization rates and the percentage of inpatient bed usage. 

“One of the biggest changes is how we evaluate the metrics themselves," Tucker said. 

The same research from the Biocomplexity Institute estimates the even newer COVID sub-variant, BA.2.12.1, could account for 50% of cases by as early as June and has an even higher transmissibility rate than previous variants. 

 

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