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Health director warns of rise of COVID-19 cases, presence of delta strain in Roanoke region
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Health director warns of rise of COVID-19 cases, presence of delta strain in Roanoke region

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Citing a recent increase in local cases of COVID-19, and the looming statewide presence of the delta strain of the virus, health officials have renewed calls for precautions against the disease.

In a news conference Friday, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said that over the past two months, those areas have averaged 75 new instances of coronavirus each week, far below what was seen in February, March and April.

However, “in the last three days alone, we’ve seen 86 cases,” Morrow said, a rise she said the public needs to be aware of, particularly those resistant to getting vaccinated.

“We have every reason to believe that the delta variant is a significant contributing factor to the increase,” she said, adding that roughly half of new COVID-19 cases nationwide are associated with the highly contagious strain, which she said has been confirmed locally.

“We can safely assume that delta is in every one of our jurisdictions,” Morrow warned.

A new dashboard on the Virginia Department of Health website indicates that of those with COVID-19, “99% of the cases, hospitalizations, deaths are in people who are not yet vaccinated,” Morrow said.

“This is, at this point, a primarily preventable disease. We have a very safe, effective vaccine,” she said. “Every case we see today is a potentially preventable case.”

Morrow urged anyone who still has questions about vaccination to see their doctors for professional advice. Those who decide not to get vaccinated should continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing, she said.

Children under 12 are still not yet able to be vaccinated.

With regard to breakthrough cases, or instances of people who have come down with COVID-19 after being vaccinated, she said there have been fewer than 200 such cases in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts.

“The reality is that no vaccine is 100% effective,” she said, but added, “Overwhelmingly the cases … are occurring in unvaccinated individuals.”

Over the past week, the two health districts have recorded 2,000 vaccinations, although she said some of those are instances of people getting a second dose.

The lowest vaccination rate in the districts is in Craig County and the highest is in Roanoke County.

Throughout the month of June, Craig County’s infection total held steady at 322 and 323 cases, but in July newer cases began to be reported. VDH data shows that over the past week, the county has added nine new cases, leaving its total Friday at 335.

Despite a vaccination rate of nearly 70%, Roanoke County still reported an increase of 55 new cases over the past week, according to VDH data.

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