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Experts urge caution as COVID numbers rise in Virginia

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Posted at 6:13 PM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-02 13:10:01-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Memorial Day in Carytown saw busy streets and full sidewalks on a sunny day, even though Richmond entered the CDC’s high community level of COVID-19 spread last week.

Health officials are asking people to take safety precautions but also anticipate the latest wave of the pandemic will not be as severe overall.

If you’re of the “art imitates life” persuasion, then the short film VCU film student May Suri was shooting in Carytown Monday might be your jam.

“We’re filming a COVID-area short about biking,” Suir said. “When everything shut down, I was in high school, and me and my now partner went biking a lot. So, we decided to just make a film about it.”

Both of her parents are ER doctors, so Suri said they keep her updated on COVID transmission levels.

“I get to hear about it, hear about the numbers that are coming into the ER. Hear about things that are spiking,” she said.

The four largest localities in the Richmond metro and several other counties are now at the “high community level,” according to the CDC.

The agency ranks communities as low, medium, or high based on a combination of three metrics: hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and the number of cases in the community.

RELATED: County-by-county look at COVID-19 cases in Virginia; which areas saw biggest spikes last week

COVID-19 Community Levels calculated on May 26, 2022.
COVID-19 Community Levels calculated on May 26, 2022.

RELATED: Masks recommended for Metro Richmond, CDC map shows

In areas of high COVID-19 ratings, medical experts recommend the following:

While new cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations are trending upward in Central Virginia, the current “wave” infections are not nearly as severe as previous ones at this point, experts said.

BONUS: Watch interview with Dr. Bearman in the video player below.

VCU Health's infectious diseases chief: 'Reconsider using masks' during COVID uptick

“I’m not entirely surprised, we certainly anticipated there would be another wave,” said Dr. Gonzalo Bearman with VCU Health. Dr. Bearman has been tracking the pandemic and community response since the beginning.

“We have greater collective immunity to it, so there should be less transmission and fewer hospitalizations. So probably not as severe, but still not insignificant. So again, individuals who are at high risk should be vaccinated. If already vaccinated, get boosted if eligible and if indoors, wear a mask. And if outdoors and high risk, consider wearing a mask as well,” Dr. Bearman said.

While new cases and the percentage of positive tests in Central Virginia are currently outpacing the statewide averages, Dr. Bearman said he is closely tracking local COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“As cases rise in the community, there is a concern about increasing hospitalization with COVID. We’re certainly nowhere near being overwhelmed or overrun by COVID-19 at the hospital. But it’s also something we don’t want to take lightly and keep our finger on the pulse of that,” he said.

Back in Carytown, Suri said she continues to take precautions, which is why her art will reflect how many feel about real life right now.

“Indoors, I usually wear a mask. Outdoors, I’m usually maskless. Obviously, get my COVID vaccine, my booster, maybe my second booster now,” she said. “I wanted to make COVID as subtle background piece in my film instead of hitting it very, very hard. I feel like it can get a little repetitive.”

Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.

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