Why does Hampton Roads continue to see higher COVID-19 case rate compared to the rest of Virginia?

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Posted at 2:06 PM, Feb 25, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - Hampton Roads continues to see a higher COVID-19 case rate compared to the rest of Virginia.

Gov. Northam's team acknowledged the issue during a press conference Wednesday. "Tidewater is where the highest region is in terms of new infections per day," said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dan Carey said.

Hampton Roads averages about 29 new cases per day per 100,000 people, which is higher than the 23 per 100,000 in Virginia, according to Carey.

Virginia's percent positivity rate averages out to 8-percent over the last seven days. By comparison, Hampton Roads is at 12.79-percent. Portsmouth is the highest in the area at 16.8-percent.

There could be several reasons why the cases remain higher here, but a local epidemiologist points to people gathering in groups with friends and family who don't live with them.

Gov. Northam upped the size of groups that can gather outside starting Monday to 25. In addition, he easing a restriction on restaurants and allowing alcohol to be served until midnight each night.

Overall, numbers are down here in Hampton Roads and Virginia. Cases are "down significantly, but there's still a long way to go, so this is not the time to loosen up your precautions - wear your mask and social distance," said Dr. Edward Oldfield, an infectious disease specialist at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Experts say to be careful if venturing to bars late at night. "To me, the real risk of getting infected is indoors with other people without a mask on with poor ventilation, talking loudly, and to me that's the definition of a bar," said Oldfield.

Still, there is good news as the number of people vaccinated continues to rise, providing a path out of the pandemic.

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