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ArlingtonCOVID's current impact puts less stress on local public-health infrastructure

COVID’s current impact puts less stress on local public-health infrastructure

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The pandemic continues to roll through Arlington’s population, but at least for the moment, the days when it held the potential to overtax public-health facilities seem to be in the rear-view mirror.

“There’s still a lot of COVID out there, but fortunately we have more tools at our disposal to both prevent and treat,” Dr. Reuben Varghese, the county government’s public-health director, said in a Sept. 20 update to County Board members.

For the preceding four weeks, Arlington had been in the “Low” threat category as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which looks primarily at a community’s ability to withstand a surge in cases that might potentially overwhelm treatment facilities.

“We’re doing quite well” in that regard, Varghese said, while also pointing out that by the CDC’s old standard (level of community transmission), Arlington would still be ranked in the “High” category.


Through Sept. 10, Arlington had recorded nearly 33,500 confirmed cases of COVID for the year, mostly at the start of the year but still nearly double the 17,400 cases recorded in all of 2021. But most of those cases were less severe, owing to evolving variants that have shown the propensity to move easily from person to person while not inflicting the carnage that was seen earlier in the pandemic.

County health officials report 55 deaths so far in 2022 owing to COVID, but the death figures remain the subject of controversy as it is almost impossible to differentiate between those who died directly of COVID and those who died of something else but may have had COVID in their system at the time. (There were 102 COVID-related deaths in Arlington in 2021 and 181 – from a much lower level of reported cases – in 2020.)

The 33,498 cases reported to date in 2022 probably significantly undercount the actual number of people who were afflicted with the virus, some on multiple occasions, since much testing is now being done at home, if it is being done at all, and is not necessarily being reported to health officials.

“We’re, of course, not capturing all of the cases,” Varghese said.

In terms of vaccination rates, Arlington officials report that 85.5 percent of eligible county residents have had at least one COVID vaccination and 77.4 percent have had at least two. About 35,000 eligible county residents have opted not to get vaccinated, according to county data.

Among adults, the lowest rate of vaccination among eligible individuals is found in the 25-to-35 and 85-and-older groups. Vaccination rates of children 5 to 11 years old also are running below the overall average, as well.

While Varghese doesn’t rule out a surge as more residents spend more time indoors in coming months, for the moment, based on current CDC scoring, all of Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and the District of Columbia is in the “Green” – lowest – level of threat.

“Let’s hope that [continues] for as long as possible,” Varghese said.

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