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Fredericksburg-area virus cases see biggest increase in seven weeks
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Fredericksburg-area virus cases see biggest increase in seven weeks

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On Thursday, the Rappahannock Area Health District reported its largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases in more than seven weeks as another 122 people tested positive for the virus.

The additional cases put the health district, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford, over the 25,000 mark. Since the pandemic began more than 13 months ago, 25,035 local residents have had confirmed infections.

Also rising are the number of people being treated at the area’s three hospitals for COVID-19 symptoms. As of Thursday, there were 47 patients hospitalized, up from 42 the day before.

The RAHD’s positivity rate, which measures the number of positive tests among all those taken, was 9.6 percent, higher than the state rate of 6.2 percent.

In Spotsylvania County, the Sheetz store on U.S. 1 in Massaponax closed Wednesday after staff members tested positive, said Nick Ruffner, the company’s public relations manager. He didn’t say how many workers were infected but said Sheetz was “taking an abundantly cautious approach, working with all employees who may have had close contact and exceeding all sanitization guidelines.”

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The building and gas pumps are being sanitized and cleaned before the store reopens, probably on Saturday, Ruffner said.

Rising numbers of cases and new variants of the disease have health officials nationwide worried that a fourth surge is on the way. Dr. Norman Oliver, state health commissioner, also is concerned about the falling number of virus tests being done in Virginia.

In a letter Wednesday to clinicians, he said supply was a problem early on in the pandemic and as that’s been resolved, a different challenge has emerged. The number of people being tested in the state has dropped from more than 50,000 to less than 30,000 daily.

Oliver stressed that the robust use of tests is essential in stopping the spread of the disease. He urged doctors to be sure patients were tested “regardless of their vaccination status” and encouraged screening tests to reduce the spread of the virus by people who aren’t showing symptoms. Such testing could be especially beneficial to:

  • Racial and ethnic minority groups and other populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
  • Teachers and staff in child care settings, schools, colleges and universities.
  • Restaurant and grocery store workers and others in high-density worksites that put them in close contact with a lot of people.
  • Government workers with public interactions such as post office workers.
  • First responders.
  • Residents and staff in homeless shelters, correctional facilities or long-term care settings.
  • People who recently traveled or attended mass gatherings.

The Rappahannock Area Health District had been offering three free testing clinics per week but scaled back to one weekly due to declining numbers. That clinic is held each Friday from 1:30–4:30 p.m. at Dixon Park, 1300 Dixon St., Fredericksburg. Those interested can preregister at vdh.virginia.gov/Rappahannock/freecovid19testing or call 540/899-4797 during business hours.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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