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Virginia health officials looking into increase in COVID-19 deaths

New data shows more Americans have died of COVID-19 this year than in 2020.

RICHMOND, Va. — COVID-19 hospitalizations are declining in Virginia, but deaths are on the increase. Officials at the Virginia Department of Health are probing through the data.

Dr. Julia Murphy of the Virginia Department of Health's Office of Epidemiology COVID-19 Response team said there is usually a lag in mortality reporting, but officials are concerned about the trend.

“One we can see a lag so this may be an artifact of reporting, but two we are concerned about this trend, if it is in fact a real trend," she said. “We’re actively assessing this to see which it seems to be. Does it seem to be more an artifact of delayed mortality reporting and will start to decline over time as we’re seeing nationally, or is it in fact an increasing trend, and if so – why.”

Data from VDH shows deaths have been increasing across the state since the beginning of September.

“It can take a period of time to see how severe infection may unfold and also assessment by health department personnel to feel confident that COVID was the cause of death,” Murphy said. 

According to new data from Johns Hopkins University, more Americans have died from COVID-19 this year than in 2020. 

Health officials have already warned that the more contagious Delta variant is behind the majority of cases across the country, and it’s people who are unvaccinated that are winding up in the hospital with more severe cases of COVID-19.

Chesapeake and Virginia Beach Health Director Dr. Nancy Welch said the best way out of the pandemic is to get vaccinated.

“Just like this summer, we saw improvements, we got all excited, we reduced our mitigation. And where are we now? We have a surge," Welch said.

“We have to be very, very cautious not to get too excited too soon, because we are not done with this. We don’t have enough people vaccinated. We don’t have enough out there who are going to ultimately kill the virus. That’s the ultimate goal."

Welch said emergency room visits are down in our area, but with deaths increasing, it’s important we all continue to take this pandemic seriously.