VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Across the country, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. Locally, medical professionals at urgent care clinics and hospitals are noticing some of the same trends.
They are also watching out for the go-ahead expected soon on a newly formulated booster.
While the status of a public health emergency is over, COVID-19 is still around and health experts still urge vigilance. They say a key difference now is the tools we have, including vaccines.
According to formulators of the new booster, it is expected to protect against severe illness and death for all circulating variants. CDC data show Omicron subvariants driving a lot of the COVID-19 infections the U.S. is seeing.
Certified physician assistant Keshia Brown with a Velocity Urgent Care location in Virginia Beach said more people are coming in with symptoms and testing positive.
"We've seen visits double, as far as the COVID count. And so, that's been a huge difference from the summer," said Brown. "With increased COVID visits, we've seen increased hospitalizations as a result of that."
Elena Diskin, respiratory disease program manager with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), told 13News Now COVID-19 activity has trended upward in the Commonwealth for months.
"Most recently, we have seen some of these measures start to plateau or stabilize, but it's a little too early to tell if that trend will continue," said Diskin.
Based on this graph on VDH's website, there became an apparent plateau after the highest number of cases in months was reported at the end of August (1,402 on 8/30).
However, Diskin points out that the landscape surrounding COVID-19 is much different now.
"We are seeing lower numbers compared to previous years," Diskin said. " And, of course, we have so many more tools available to protect and prevent against serious illness."
That includes a new booster pending approval from the FDA. Those shots could start going in arms mid-to-late September.
Health experts expect the updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against severe illness and deaths from all circulating variants, including BA.2.86 or Pirola.
Moreover, representatives for two health care systems also help put things in perspective for Hampton Roads.
A Sentara spokesperson told 13News Now they are noticing an increase in COVID numbers like national trends, but he said cases in their facilities remain low overall.
He noted there are approximately 55 patients with the virus across 12 hospitals.
Our information is similar to national trends. There is an increase in COVID numbers, but cases remain low overall. There are approximately 55 patients in our 12 hospitals. We encourage masking in our facilities, but they are not required.
-Dale Gauding, Sentara spokesperson
At Bon Secours, a spokesperson told 13News Now they are not experiencing any alarming increase in inpatient admissions with COVID. She added their testing supply is OK.
Bon Secours is not experiencing any alarming increase in inpatient admissions with COVID. I will also add that we are not experiencing any issues with COVID testing supply and would refer you to the VDH for statewide numbers. We continue to encourage patients to work with their physician and pharmacies for vaccination needs.
Additionally, in April of this year, we announced patients, visitors, and staff will no longer be required to wear a mask at all times within our healthcare facilities. Exceptions include:
- Patients who are seeking treatment for a viral illness such as COVID-19 or the flu should continue to wear a mask to prevent spreading the virus to others.
- Healthcare workers treating patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 must still wear the appropriate level of personal protective equipment (PPE) required.
-Emma Swann, Bon Secours spokesperson