HAMPTON, Va. - Peninsula health officials are warning the public that the coronavirus is spreading faster and causing more illness locally.
Hampton is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases which has been documented by the Virginia Department of Health this month. Health officials said data shows both characteristics of the Delta variant have been present which means there has been faster spread and more serious illnesses.
Hampton native David Minter is fully vaccinated and is worried about the alarming rise in COVID-19 infections in his city, especially because his 2-year-old son Noah is not yet eligible to get the shot.
“It’s very concerning. I don’t understand it,” Minter said. “We just got to be careful. Get vaccinated. That's what I say - get vaccinated.”
There were 1,533 new COVID-19 cases in Hampton in August, which is an increase of more than 500% from July. The two-month increase from June to August was more than 1600%, Peninsula health officials said.
The number of Hampton residents admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 (or suspected COVID-19), spiked to 74 — just one shy of the peak of 75 people in December 2020, which was before the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available.
Even after showing 25-year-old Deonte Hubbard the alarming data, he’s still not entirely convinced about getting the vaccine.
“This could be valid for all I know,” Hubbard said as he looked at the bar chart of rising cases. “I'm not necessarily, like, against it, but it's kind of hard for me to trust.”
That’s what has Hampton health officials concerned. They’re now warning the public about the disturbing rise in hospitalizations and cases not only in Hampton, but across Hampton Roads and the country.
Health officials said, "Looking at rates adjusted for population [7-day average of new cases per 100,000 people], Hampton’s rate of 50 cases is higher than the statewide rate of 37.3 cases. It’s the second-highest rate in the region, behind Newport News at 54.4."
Most localities in the region are also higher than the state average, including Poquoson, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, James City County and York County. Those cases are mostly among people who are not fully vaccinated.
Robin McCormick, the communications strategist for the City of Hampton, has been tracking the data since the start of the pandemic.
“I spent August watching this curve, and it's a steeper curve than we saw last fall,” McCormick said. “When I saw the hospitalization numbers almost as high as they were in the peak of the winter, I want people to understand the data and the numbers and the risks.”
Riverside Health’s VP and Chief Pharmacy Officer Cindy Williams said the Delta variant is fueling the surge, spreading quickly among the unvaccinated.
“Quite honestly, we’re tired of doing a lot of the things we need to do,” she said. “I think people have let their guard down and maybe exhibiting, what I’ll say, riskier behavior, just in that we’re not masking like we did before, and I think that’s really what’s spreading this Delta variant more than two times more contagious than the variant we had previously. That is what I think is fueling this increase.”
Heath experts continue to say vaccines are the best protection in the fight against COVID-19.
Minter is hopeful people will start to listen.
“Follow the advice of the science people, doctors,” said Minter. “We got to listen to them. That’s what we got to do. We don’t know. They've been trained; that's what they study, so we got to listen to them.”
The health department reported that statewide, as of Aug. 21, the percentage of vaccinated people who have developed COVID-19, been hospitalized, or died from the disease remains below 1%.
Health officials are reminding residents that the COVID-19 vaccine is available at pharmacies, doctor's offices and the health department. For a list of locations to get the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
Part of slowing the spread includes booster shots for the general public. Riverside said they’ll be ready to roll those shots out hopefully this fall as soon as federal health officials give the green light.