NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from Dec. 30, 2021.
COVID-19 testing positivity rates in Hampton Roads are at unprecedented levels and climbing, due to a winter surge of cases and the spread of the omicron variant.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported a statewide testing positivity rate of 21.5% in late December - the highest of the pandemic.
That means a higher percentage of people who have been taking COVID-19 tests are testing positive.
Positivity rates are one indicator of widespread community spread of the virus, giving health officials a better idea of what’s needed -- which could mean testing clinics, vaccine clinics or other health department initiatives.
As of Dec. 31, according to the VDH website, Hampton Roads health districts' positivity rates for PCR tests were:
- Hampton - 28.8%
- Portsmouth - 27.9%
- Chesapeake - 23.4%
- Norfolk - 23%
- Western Tidewater - 22.3%
- Virginia Beach - 22.2%
- Peninsula - 22.2%
- Eastern Shore - 17.8%
This data doesn't include the percentages of people who are testing positive for COVID-19 using antibody or antigen tests.
Public health leaders report an extremely high demand for testing, creating a need for more clinics.
"People are very aware of the increased risk associated with the omicron variant, we’re going to have to expand our footprint and capabilities to meet that demand," said Jerry Tucker with the Chesapeake Health Department.
Still, some health leaders estimate true positivity rates may be even higher than reported, as some people are taking at-home COVID tests and not reporting their positive results.
The statewide testing positivity rate has risen from about 6% to more than 21.5% in the past month.