University of Virginia modelers on Friday forecast a peak in new coronavirus cases by the end of September, although they cautioned there is considerable uncertainty as to the effect of weather changes and school openings.
Should these changes prompt the virus to spread, cases will continue to rise until mid-October.
The modelers with UVa’s Biocomplexity Institute said 16 health districts, including the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts, are experiencing surges in cases.
Three other Southwest districts — West Piedmont (which includes Franklin County), Lenowisco and Pittsylvania-Danville — were added to the surge list, as was Southside in the Central Region.
The weekly report said the modeling methodology has been refined to closely track past and current trends. The new modeling puts Virginia on a course to peak the week of Sept. 27 with 14,743 weekly cases.
This week, the Virginia Department of Health reported 6,956 new cases.
“Anticipated seasonal changes in the Fall could lead to a surge beginning around Labor Day with schools and universities re-opening, changes to workplace attendance, and the impact of weather patterns,” the report said.
Since students began returning to schools across the commonwealth, 11 outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported in educational settings since Aug. 4, the Virginia Department of Health reported Friday. Since March, there have been 38 of these types of outbreaks.
The New River Valley has reported two educational outbreaks, but no details are available as to when and where these occurred, or if they are ongoing. An outbreak is not considered over until two 14-day incubation periods have passed without any new cases.
The health department claims state code prohibits release of information about outbreaks and reports cumulative totals only by health districts, not localities.
With school openings, weather and other changes arriving with the fall season, the UVa modelers also looked at what would occur if the rate of transmission increased by 10% and 20%. At 10%, cases would peak at 18,000 a week Oct. 11, and with 20%, they’d rise to 23,000 a week by Oct. 18.
As has been the trend, the spread of the infections will differ across regions of the state. The report said the Northern and Eastern regions appear to have neared or passed their peak, while the Southwest region has yet to reach its peak.
At the disease’s current pace, the Roanoke metro area is expected to peak at the end of September with about 650 new cases a week and to hold that pace until mid-October.
The Blacksburg-Christiansburg metro area shows a later peak of mid-October with about 415 weekly cases.
In far Southwest, which is experiencing a rapid increase in cases, the peak will come sooner in September at about 585 cases a week.
Ballad Health, the predominant health care provider for that part of Virginia and northeastern Tennessee, said it is seeing a higher infection rate in tests of Virginia residents.
Ballad’s Tennessee counties have a seven-day average of 10% of tests being positive for the coronavirus, while its Virginia counties have a 13.8% positivity rate.