While COVID cases drop, local health district works to catch up elsewhere

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The leader of one Hometown health district is optimistic COVID cases will continue to stay low for the foreseeable future. That means the heath district staff will be able to focus on other areas of public health they say they need to catch up on.

During her virtual update Monday, Dr. Noelle Bissell with the New River Health District said COVID cases in her health district are in the single digits and transmission is low.

She did talk about the new BA2 variant, which was first identified in Europe, causing a surge there. While it’s the version of COVID seen more often in positive cases lately, she said it’s not yet the dominant strain in Virginia.

Dr. Bissell said we may see a slight bump in cases in the near future but doesn’t expect anything “significant.” In fact, she said Monday’s call with reporters would be her last scheduled virtual update for now.

The health district is going to keep an eye on testing data and wastewater samples. That said, addressing COVID is not going to be the all-hands-on-deck effort it was.

We asked Dr. Bissell how her team intends to apply resources moving forward, with COVID in low transmission.

“Early childhood and other immunizations have taken a hit, so we’re really focusing on working with our pediatricians, working with our schools, working with our families on getting those early childhood immunizations up to date,” she said. “Substance use and overdoses have been really significant.”

She said they’re also focused on addressing a rise in tuberculosis cases as well as Hepatitis A and various STDs. Not to mention the health district is also getting up to speed on restaurant health inspections.

We also learned a lot about health equity during the pandemic and we asked Dr. Bissell how they’ll be using what they learned moving forward.

She said they’re working to continue to meet people where they are. They have a better sense of what the internet connectivity in the community is like, who they can work with to improve communication, and how to reach people who are homebound.

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