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First Fredericksburg-area person in 30s dies from COVID-19
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First Fredericksburg-area person in 30s dies from COVID-19

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This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (NIAID/TNS)

The death of a Black Fredericksburg man in his 30s was reported on Wednesday, marking the first COVID-19 fatality of someone from that age group in the Rappahannock Area Health District.

Across Virginia, 46 people in their 30s have died from the virus, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“The death of someone in their 30s is a tragic reminder that COVID-19 can have very serious impacts on people of all ages,” said Allison Balmes–John, spokesperson for the local health district. “Though older adults are at higher risk for dying of COVID-19, individuals of all ages can experience severe illness.”

Early in the pandemic, local residents in their 40s and 50s made up the greater number of people who tested positive for COVID-19, but those demographics have changed since August, according to the state. People in their 20s and 30s currently make up the highest age groups to have confirmed infections to the point they represent more than one of every three cases in the local health district, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford.

“It is important for younger people to recognize that they need to continue to follow precautions to keep themselves safe,” Balmes–John said, “both to protect their own health and to prevent spreading the disease to others, who may be more at risk.

At the other end of the aging spectrum, people age 80-plus make up the smallest group who have tested positive. Since March, 520 people in their 80s, 90s and 100s have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, but their outcomes have been the deadliest. Of the 520 local seniors with the disease, 133 were hospitalized—and almost half of those who were admitted, or 61 elderly people, didn’t make it home.

Wednesday’s report also included the death of a Caroline County woman who was Black and over age 80. She did not live in a long-term care facility.

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The two fatalities bring to 135 the number of local residents who have died from the virus, and the death toll is one of several grim measurements as the area, state and nation continue to deal with surging cases, most likely as a result of holiday gatherings.

The local health district topped the 15,000 mark in cumulative cases on Wednesday while statewide deaths reported the past two days have been the highest since the pandemic began.

The deaths of 84 Virginians were reported on Tuesday and 75 on Wednesday. By comparison, there were several days in early November—before temperatures cooled and people were forced indoors—when the state’s daily death toll was in the 20s or less, according to the VDH.

As of Wednesday, 109 people were hospitalized in the area’s three facilities. In the last seven days, hospitals admitted 16 new patients with COVID-19, according to the local health district’s weekly update. Nine new deaths have been reported in the same timeframe.

A graphic of Virginia’s 35 health districts is color coded to show the status of new cases from areas where they’re surging to declining. The Rappahannock Area Health District is one of nine statewide districts in the red zone, where cases continue to surge, along with areas surrounding Richmond. The largest portion of the state, from Northern Virginia to the center part of the state and south, is showing slower growth compared to the previous week.

Cases have plateaued in three health districts and declined in 10 districts—mainly in Southwestern Virginia and the Middle Peninsula—since last week, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Virginia works to speed up the rollout of the vaccine after a sluggish start. It’s still only administering about one of every four doses received, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

As of Wednesday, 193,272 people had been vaccinated, including 22,985 health care workers who had received both doses. The state is inoculating 11,582 people a day, according to its seven-day average. State officials soon hope to boost that number up to 25,000 a day.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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