Thursday, August 18, 2022

Health Department Focusing COVID-19 Investigation Efforts on Congregate Settings

(WYDaily File Photo)

STATEWIDE — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has announced that it will refocus its COVID-19 investigation efforts on congregate settings, including the Commonwealth’s schools.

In a release issued by VDH on Tues., January 25, the department stated that because it is now focusing on these settings, it will no longer be investigating every individual case reported of COVID-19 in Virginia. Instead, VDH follow up on outbreaks and cases in high risk settings.

The release stated, “This response is more effective when a virus spreads very easily and quickly and many infected people do not have symptoms.”

According to VDH, Omicron is currently the most common variant of COVID-19 and, because of its quick spread, it is no longer advantageous for the department to attempt to track every case. The release stated that, because of the high vaccination rate in the Commonwealth, most people who contract the Omicron variant have mild illness. However, the high number of cases as a result of Omicron is causing a burden upon Virginia’s healthcare systems.

“COVID-19 continues to spread across the Commonwealth in high volumes, and Virginians should act quickly when illness is suspected. Please get tested, stay home when you are infectious, and notify your contacts,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH.

With this investigation refocused, public health staff will prioritize studying COVID-19 clusters as well as outbreaks in long-term care facilities, congregate, healthcare, and other high-risk settings. Additionally, the department will continue to partner with public school systems across Virginia to emphasize prevention strategies in order to reduce spread in schools. This is an important strategy in order to make sure that schools can remain safe and open. The key for VDH is also studying areas and individuals who are at higher risk of negative health effects as a result of possible infection.

Residents are encouraged to continue to seek testing if they suspect or confirm a COVID-19 infection. Additionally, VDH asks individuals to notify their close contacts regarding a possible COVID-19 confirmation. The department emphasizes the importance of contact tracing for Virginia residents, particularly for those who are not vaccinated or may not have access to treatments.

According to the release, since September 2020, VDH has completed more than 750,000 COVID-19 investigations, notified over 400,000 close contacts, and provided response exceeding 6,500 of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Residents are asked to keep in mind that the virus which causes COVID-19 could continue to mutate. Prevention strategies need to remain a priority in order to keep one another safe. VDH emphasizes that the most important way to continue to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to receive the full series of the vaccination.

According to the VDH COVID-19 Vaccine Summary Dashboard, 78.9 percent of Virginians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, while 68.7 percent of the Commonwealth’s residents are considered fully vaccinated. A person is considered fully vaccinated after receiving to doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“If you have not gotten vaccinated or boosted and are eligible, please do so now,” VDH stated in the release. “Do it for yourself, your family, and your community, including the health care workers we depend on to be there when we truly need emergency care.”

Click the links below for more information about COVID-19 or to schedule an appointment for vaccination:

  • To learn more or to schedule an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, contact your healthcare provider or visit the website for Vaccinate Virginia. Residents may also call (877) VAX-IN-VA. TTY users may call 7-1-1.
  • For more information regarding current vaccinations for COVID-19, visit the website for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • To find the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), click here.
  • To see the current COVID-19 map courtesy of Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, click here.

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