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One-third of COVID-19 cases in Roanoke Valley are health care workers; Virginia's total infections increase by 6% over Monday
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One-third of COVID-19 cases in Roanoke Valley are health care workers; Virginia's total infections increase by 6% over Monday

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One-third of the test-confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections in the Roanoke Valley have occurred in health care workers.

Dr. Molly O’Dell, who is leading the pandemic response for the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts, said Tuesday during her weekly briefing that 59 of the 154 cases are in health care workers.

The disease has killed five residents, she said.

O’Dell said outbreaks in places where vulnerable people live close together, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, jails and shelters, are of growing concern.

She said social distancing has “been effective in preventing the disease from decimating in the community, but we are seeing these outbreaks in congregant living systems that are more intense given the nature of the way the conditions are and the proximity of everyone within those congregant living settings.”

She did not know how many of the 154 cases were in residents of facilities. Both South Roanoke Nursing Home and Richfield Living in Roanoke County have reported cases in workers and residents. Carilion Clinic and LewisGale Medical Center have also reported infections in employees.

O’Dell’s numbers are higher than those reported on the Virginia Department of Health’s dashboard, which on Tuesday still listed just three deaths, all in Botetourt County and 123 cases there and in Roanoke, Salem and Roanoke, Craig and Alleghany counties.

O’Dell had said during previous briefings that the rate of positive cases had been steady at about two a day, but once the case count pushed beyond 100, more of them came in and are linked to health care workers, most of whom are women. The districts’ cases are no longer evenly balanced between genders, as 88 of them are now women and 66 men.

O’Dell attributes that to the higher ratio of women working in long-term care.

With each positive case in a health care worker, contacts are traced for each patient and coworker who might have been exposed within the facility. O’Dell said exposed coworkers who haven’t developed symptoms are permitted to work but should be wearing personal protective equipment.

South Roanoke Nursing Home had asked for testing of all its residents and staff, and the health district used Virginia Tech’s new labs to do to what is called a point prevalence survey that can show how many cases are linked to the facility at one moment in time.

O’Dell cautioned that the virus load might not be high enough to give a positive test for someone who has been exposed but has yet to develop symptoms of the disease.

Statewide, the Virginia Department of Health reported Tuesday that the state has 14,339 COVID-19 cases, which is an increase of 804 over the 13,535 reported Monday.

The 14,339 cases included 13,794 confirmed and 545 probable cases. Also, there are 492 COVID-19 deaths in the state — 487 confirmed and 5 probable.

Last week, the VDH started including probable COVID-19 cases and probable deaths in the state’s overall tally. Probable cases are people who are symptomatic with a known exposure to COVID-19, but have not been confirmed with a positive test.

The VDH said 82,753 have been tested for the virus in Virginia, and there have been 2,165 hospitalizations.

There are coronavirus cases in 130 of Virginia’s 133 cities and counties. Only these three localities — Bath County, Bland County and Dickenson County — don’t have cases.

State health officials have said there’s a lag in the reporting of statewide numbers on the VDH website. Figures on the website might not include cases or deaths reported by localities or local health districts.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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