Over the last four days, Floyd County has reported 45 new COVID-19 cases, the largest count since the pandemic began in last 2019. Weekend reports showed 16 new cases, followed by 11 in Tuesday’s report and another 11 on Wednesday — double digits over four days.
The county is not alone in Southwestern Virginia. Daily counts for the Roanoke Valley showed more than 200 cases on Wednesday and Montgomery County topped 100 on Tuesday.
Less than 10 days ago, the Commonwealth topped two million in total cases and has added more than 22,000 since then.
Floyd County’s hike in cases coincided with the start of public schools.
The hike, however, is most likely underreported since many people quarantine themselves after testing positive on home kits without notifying the Virginia Department of Health.
“If someone tests positive without showing any symptoms of the virus, we urge them to stay home for at least four days and wear a mask and practice social distancing for at least 10 more,” one county doctor told us this week.
The Centers for Disease Control had removed nearly all recommendations for social distancing and masks but still says those who don’t feel safe should continue to practice precautions.
“The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years,” CDC epidemiologist Greta Massetti told reporters in a briefing.
“I think the question is, is the CDC finally saying, ‘Look, we’ve done what we can do to contain the most acute phases of this pandemic?’” Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious-diseases expert, and clinician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham tells The Washington Post. “So are they just finally saying that it is time for us to sort of take a step back and think about putting this back to the individual person?”
The more relaxed guidelines are “a concession to realism, to the way that a lot of people are handling this,” said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He called the new guidelines “entirely reasonable,” but added, “My major concern is whether they will continue to be entirely reasonable given the unpredictable dynamics of the virus.”
The revision by the CDC of its coronavirus guidance is the most significant move by the agency since the massive outbreak of infections from omicron last winter. Omicron sickened tens of millions of people in a matter of weeks. The CDC had been recommending a 10-day isolation period up to that point, but omicron quickly decimated the labor force and the agency abruptly cut isolation guidance in half.
No longer do schools and other institutions need to screen apparently healthy students and employees as a matter of course. The CDC is putting less emphasis on social distancing — and the new guidance has dropped the “six foot” standard. The quarantine rule for unvaccinated people is gone. The agency’s focus now is on highly vulnerable populations and how to protect them — not on the vast majority of people who at this point have some immunity against the virus and are unlikely to become severely ill.
The new recommendations signal that the Biden administration and its medical advisers have decided that the lower fatality rate from covid-19 in a heavily vaccinated population permits a less demanding set of guidelines.
Others, however, say increases in COVID infections show cutting back on precautions is risky, at best.