VIRGINIA — Southwest Virginia has surpassed population centers in Northern Virginia and the Tidewater area in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.
Statewide, cumulative hospitalizations stood at 11,831 as of Saturday, while current patient numbers totaled 993, according to the Virginia Department of Health. That includes 218 hospitalizations in the state’s southwest region, compared to 216 in the northern region and 187 in the eastern region. The central region led the state with 238 hospitalizations on Saturday and the northwest region had the fewest hospitalizations at 134.
The seven-day moving average of hospitalizations in the southwest region has grown from 161.7 a month ago on Sept. 17 to an average of 204.6 hospitalizations on Saturday. In Northern Virginia, the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations has dropped from 237.7 on Sept. 17 to 221.7 on Oct. 17.
Southwest Virginia also has seen a growing number of positive coronavirus cases since July 1. The region was reporting a seven-day moving average of 79.6 positive cases on July 1 compared to an average of 292.4 on Oct. 17.
The VDH reported 1,114 additional coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the cumulative total to 165,238 cases. Saturday’s new cases included 348 in the southwest region, 273 in the central region, 216 in the northern region, 152 in the eastern region, and 125 in the northwest region.
Health officials had viewed the rise in cases in southwest Virginia since August as predominantly student-related, with students at Virginia Tech, Radford University and other colleges returning to school.
But an increase in hospitalizations in southwest Virginia may indicate the disease is spreading to older populations in the region.
At a news conference last month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the state needs to keep an eye on the southwest region due to its high positivity rate. “Since Southwest Virginia has fewer people and fewer hospitals with fewer ICU beds and capabilities, this continues to be concerning to us,” the governor said at the time.
The latest statewide seven-day average is 4.9 percent on Oct. 13, with the southwest region still far above the rest of the state at a 7.2 percent average. The rest of the state is in the 4-percent range: central region at 4.7 percent, eastern region at 4.5 percent, northwest region at 4.3 percent and northern region at 4.1 percent.
According to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, there are 100 COVID-19 patients on ventilators and 219 in the intensive care units. Ventilator use among all hospital patients is at 23 percent of capacity as of Friday, while ICU occupancy stands at 82 percent. No hospitals are reporting difficulty obtaining personal protective equipment or other medical supplies in the next 72 hours.
As for the positive rate of PCR tests, the latest statewide seven-day average is 4.9 percent on Oct. 13. Regions in the 4-percent range are the central region (4.7 percent), eastern region (4.5 percent), northwest region (4.3 percent) and northern region (4.1 percent). The southwest region’s average is 7.2 percent.