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Seven more virus deaths reported in Fredericksburg region as nation's toll tops 500,000
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Seven more virus deaths reported in Fredericksburg region as nation's toll tops 500,000

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Biden

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff attend a candelight vigil for COVID-19 victims.

Seven additional deaths from COVID-19 were reported on Sunday and Monday for the Rappahannock Area Health District as President Joe Biden held a candlelight vigil at sunset in memory of more than 500,000 people nationwide who have died from the virus.

Five men and two women, in their 70s and older and all Stafford County residents except one Spotsylvania County woman, were the most recent local fatalities. Five were white, one was Black and one was Hispanic, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The deaths were reported even as the number of cases and hospitalizations has dropped significantly—locally, statewide and across the nation in the wake of all-time highs in January. Virginia is continuing to process the death certificates “related to the post-holiday surge,” according to the state health department’s website.

However, all seven local deaths occurred in the last three weeks, said Mary Chamberlin, a public relations specialist with the local health district.

Several times in the past year, state officials have reviewed death certificates, certified that the fatalities met the criteria to be classified as associated with COVID-19 and then reported them to the state website in batches—and that seems to be the case for recent days.

Until the weekend, there hadn’t been a single time since Dec. 1, when the state reported more than 95 deaths in a day.

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Then, Saturday arrived with a report of 99 deaths statewide. It was followed by 134 deaths reported Sunday and 155 reported Monday.

Local health officials said it’s not clear how long it will take the state to process the death certificates and report the fatalities to the state website.

Even with the recent surges, February’s death toll for local residents, thankfully, remains half of what it was in January. So far this month, the deaths of 22 people have been reported in Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford for February compared with 44 fatalities last month.

They’re among 190 local residents who have died from the virus. The death total does not include 46 fatalities in Culpeper County, 45 in Fauquier County, 21 in Orange County and 16 in Westmoreland County.

Three of the seven local residents whose deaths were reported Sunday and Monday lived in long-term care facilities, which continue to struggle with outbreaks. At least one nursing home or assisted living facility in every locality in the Rappahannock Area Health District has an outbreak in progress, resulting in 262 cases and at least six deaths, according to the state dashboard. When there are fewer than five fatalities in a facility, the state doesn’t specify the exact number of deaths.

Heritage Hall Nursing Home in King George County is experiencing its fourth outbreak since May. While dozens of long-term facilities statewide, including six in the local health district, have had two outbreaks in the last year, Heritage Hall is one of only two statewide with four outbreaks. Clusters of illness there have resulted in 50 cases and less than five deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Heritage Hall also was one of the first of 21 local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have vaccinators come to its building, according to local health officials.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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