NORFOLK, Va. - After months of COVID-19 cases rising in Virginia, they appear to have leveled off and are falling.
Data from the Virginia Dept. of Health shows cases peaked in mid-September and are now falling. Hospitalizations and deaths are also going down.
"While the news is good, I think it's still going to be about six weeks before we come down that Delta curve and hopefully see the low rates we enjoyed in June and July," said Dr. Danny Avula, the state vaccination coordinator for the Virginia Dept. of Health.
Last year, Virginia saw a big peak during the winter, but Avula doesn't believe that will happen again this year. Instead, he thinks there will still be a sustained rate of infection.
"The main take away is that this disease is still circulating. We're going to see future phases of this and if you're not vaccinated, protecting yourself through vaccination is the most important thing you can do," Avula said.
So what does all of this mean for returning to normal life? "I think risk tolerance like most things is a bell curve. You have people that take risks and do risky things versus people who are barely even leaving their house. Now, I'm still pretty cautious. I'm acting pretty much like I was in the spring," said Dr. Edward Oldfield, an infectious disease expert at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Experts caution while the case rates are falling, they are still much higher than the early summer. "Before we get too risky, remember we're still ten times higher than we were in mid-June, so we still have a long way to go right now in Virginia," said Oldfield.
Many people are also wondering if and when they'll need a booster shot. The FDA has approved Pfizer booster shots only for only certain people, like people over 65-years old or people with health conditions. Later this month, they'll be reviewing data from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for boosters.
"I think there will be a point in the next few months where we see a univerisal recommendation for boosters even for young healthy adults. We just see immunity from the vaccination doesn't last much more than a year or so and we need to boost that," said Avula.
Riverside Health Systems sent News 3 this statement about what they're seeing:
Riverside Health System has begun to see a decrease in COVID-19 cases. As of today, October 4, Riverside has a total of 78 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations across its facilities whereas last month it was significantly higher. We believe this change is due to the continued vaccination of our community and the effective efforts of the Hampton Roads’ healthcare workers. Despite our optimism, we know the fight against COVID-19 continues, which is why we still encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated, wear masks and socially distance to best protect themselves, their loved ones and the community.