While the number of COVID-19 cases in Westmoreland County started off slow, they have skyrocketed since July 1. As beaches and parks and other attractions have shown an increase in people the virus numbers have risen nearly 70 percent.
Numbers prior to late June were slow growing in Westmoreland. Few people were found to be positive with two deaths attributed to the virus. Then they began to rise.
First 93, to 100, to 116 in a matter of a few days. That was nothing compared to the numbers put out by the Virginia Department of Health on Friday. Forty-seven new cases were reported followed by 12 more on Saturday.
That adds up to 183 cases of the virus, that are known, in the county.
Congregate setting outbreaks are likely the cause for the increase although Three Rivers Health District does not pinpoint where they happen. Director of the district, Dr. Richard Williams, would only say they are in the district.
Three Rivers Health District includes 10-counties in the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck including Westmoreland and Northumberland.
The definition of a congregate setting is a gathering place be it a church, apartment building, private home, campground, or other similar location. While many churches are still streaming services quite a few have started to go back to in person services as Virginia entered Phase 3 on July 1.
With tourists flocking to Colonial Beach the virus is likely carried by some of those visitors. The town has not been notified of any cases within town limits.
While there is a statewide mask mandate you would not know that in many areas of the county. Numerous people in stores, at gatherings, and at tourist attractions are seen without masks. Local grocery stores have signs stating masks are mandatory yet many people are not wearing them.
As Virginia's numbers reached 71,642 on Monday a 2,711 increase over the weekend with 1,968 dead it is obvious more needs to be done to keep the population safe.
Much of the county was packed over the Fourth of July weekend even as fireworks and events were canceled. Beaches were covered in people as were local restaurants. With the numbers coming in just after the incubation period of the virus, it is possible that some are from that and family gatherings that are happening throughout the area.
While people are not vacationing as much, many people are taking trips close to home and that seems to include the Northern Neck. Numbers are up, motels are filling, and summer crowds appear to be higher than in recent years.
With school openings rapidly approaching in the county due to an August 10th opening date, parents worries are greatly increasing as well. It is a common theme for parents to be looking at full virtual school this coming year.
Governor Ralph Northam was scheduled to speak on the opening of schools after press time.
Reminders from local and state governments on measures to reduce transmission of the virus include wearing a mask when outside your home, especially in stores, doctors' offices and similar settings. Frequent proper handwashing which involves at least 20-seconds of scrubbing and social distancing.
Social distancing of a minimum of six-feet is suggested as well as wearing fabric or paper masks to help stop the mask wearer from passing along the virus. The number of asymptomatic carriers is also rising in the state.
The Virginia Department of Health updates the number of COVID-19 cases on a daily basis on their website.