RICHMOND, Va. -- Due to widely spread sub-variants of omicron, COVID-19 cases in Virginia are once again on the rise — but, at this point, the numbers are nowhere near the dramatic spikes seen earlier in the pandemic.
As of Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 2,746 new cases in the past 24 hours, and the percentage of positive tests statewide is up to more than 13% — up more than 10 percentage points in less than a month.
Hospitalizations remain relatively low, with 282 people in Virginia hospitals with either confirmed cases or pending tests, a number that’s been ticking upward along with new cases.
U.S. health officials are warning of another COVID-19 surge in the fall and winter, depending on how the virus mutates this summer.
“All researchers are trying to figure out as this COVID virus begins to mutate and we get different variants, what are the consequences?” said Dr. Richard Costanzo, professor emeritus in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at VCU Medical Center.
Costanzo is part of a research team that is doing just that.
While reviewing a database of 3.5 million COVID-19 cases compiled by the National Institutes of Health, their team found the instances of patients losing their sense of taste or smell dropped significantly with the omicron variant compared to earlier ones.
The chances of smell and taste loss were just 17% for omicron, 44% for delta and 50% for the alpha variant, according to the study.
“The good news with omicron is we’re seeing less cases of smell and taste loss. That means that less people in the United States will have this problem going forward,” Costanzo said. “If you don’t lose your sense of smell, it doesn’t mean you don’t have COVID or should not worry about protecting yourself from getting COVID. Before, we were looking at smell/taste as an indicator. Now that it’s not as frequent, it’s less critical in the diagnosis of COVID disease symptoms.”
While Costanzo’s team is still studying the why beyond this, the research is an example of scientists continuing to learn more about the virus, even as daily life rolls on.
We continue to track COVID-19 data and provide updates on how things look in each locality in Central Virginia. Find that information here.