VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Coronavirus cases are rising in Virginia and Hampton Roads as health leaders warn of a "new wave" of the virus and its variants.
After months of declining COVID-19 case rates due to millions of people getting vaccinated, Virginia Department of Health data shows the start of another surge.
Virginia Beach health leaders pointed to the delta variant and summer interactions and exposures as two of the reason for the increase.
“We’re just at the very bottom of that curve. Unfortunately, I foresee our cases are going to continue over the next few weeks," said Dr. Parham Jaberi, Acting Director for the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health.
The Virginia Beach COVID-19 testing positivity rate has risen to 5.7% since the start of July; that’s almost double the statewide average of 3%.
Jaberi said the increase shows a need for more people to get vaccinated.
“What we’re seeing right now, the outbreaks, the case transmission across the community, is more than likely occurring among individuals who are not vaccinated versus those who are," he said.
He emphasized data that shows vaccinations drastically reduce severe health effects from the virus, with "99 percent of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths occurring in non-fully vaccinated individuals."
For the first time since April, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Virginia also rose over the last week.
Jaberi said Virginia Beach may have higher COVID-19 transmission rates than other parts of the state because of summer activities and exposures.
“This was partly expected with the arrival of the delta variant which is much more contagious," he said.
He added that health officials are now renewing a focus on testing for the virus.
“We kind of moved away from our testing campaign as numbers began to decrease, but now that they’re beginning to increase, we need to make sure our residents get tested," Jaberi said.
It isn’t just Virginia Beach. VDH data shows all Hampton Roads cities and health districts currently have COVID-19 positivity rates higher than the state average.