Localities in black and gray have the highest rates. Courtesy of The Daily Yonder.

For virtually all of the fall and early winter, the highest COVID-19 infection rates in Virginia were in Southwest Virginia. That’s no longer the case. To be sure, infection rates are rising there, as well. However, the arrival of the omicron variant has changed infection patterns, with virus rates surging in metro areas, although it’s now starting to move into rural areas.

The Daily Yonder, a website that covers rural issues, has analyzed federal data on infection rates. It reports: “The explosion of Covid-19 infections from the Omicron variant began in the nation’s metropolitan centers and is now encroaching on rural areas.”

Health officials warn that because rural areas tend to be less vaccinated than urban ones that virus rates will get even worse once omicron is established there. Dr. Teresa Tyson of The Health Wagon in Southwest Virginia sent a letter to state and federal health authorities that warned:

Teresa Tyson of The Health Wagon.

“Many in our region, unfortunately, are somewhat vaccination hesitant compared to other areas.  The result is we have a large proportion of our patients who are unvaccinated, have contracted COVID-19 and now desperately need life-saving monoclonal antibody therapies.  Here, our seven-day rolling death rate is 5.2 PER 100,000, more than triple the statewide average of 1.4. The current supply shortage of MAB therapies is costing lives in Southwest Virginia and increasing the stress on local hospitals.  Immediate governmental action is urgently needed. We are currently on the verge of a medical disaster in Southwest Virginia.  We have zero MAB therapies to administer, and until we receive additional supplies, more patients will require hospitalization, and some will die.” (The italics and bolding were in her letter).

These rising rates have led Roanoke to consider a vaccine mandate for its employees.

For the week ending January 1, these were the localities in Virginia with the highest infection rates. The top 13 are all in or near the urban crescent. In Southside, the highest rates were in Nottoway County, ranked ranked 23rd. In Southwest Virginia, the highest rates were in Salem, which ranked 31st.

  1. Arlington County 1330.0, up from 934.0
  2. Colonial Heights 1324.1, up from 460.6
  3. Manassas 1277.8, up from 691.2
  4. Fauquier County 1100.8, up from 454.9
  5. Petersburg 1075.1, up from 456.2
  6. Falls Church 1067.3, up from 506.3
  7. Henrico County 1042.0, up from 434.7
  8. Richmond 1030.7, up from 526.4
  9. Fairfax County 1018.6, up from 532.4
  10. Loudoun County 992.4, up from 584.5
  11. Hopewell 967.6, up from 421.7
  12. Portsmouth 958.7, up from 274.4
  13. Stafford County 956.9, up from 589.3
  14. Culpeper County 946.7, up from 500.0
  15. Chesterfield County 926.6, up from 396.5
  16. Fredericksburg 919.5, up from 378.8
  17. Surry County 918.7, up from 280.3
  18. Alexandria 852.4, up from 933.3
  19. Hampton 845.3, up from 324.1
  20. Virginia Beach 844.5, up from 342.9
  21. King William County 833.9, up from 454.9
  22. Spotsylvania County 833.2, up from 425.1
  23. Nottoway County 827.8, up from 249.5
  24. Hanover County 826.8, up from 422.2
  25. James City County 806.3, up from 326.7
  26. Frederick County 800.6, up from 477.0
  27. Clarke County 800.3, up from 376.2
  28. Newport News 799.6, up from 250.5
  29. Orange County 788.1, up from 429.8
  30. Chesapeake 758.9, up from 304.7
  31. Salem 754.9, up from 379.4
  32. Northumberland County 752.4, up from 140.6
  33. King George County 745.3, up from 413.6
  34. Suffolk 743.7, up from 270.3
  35. Goochland County 736.7, up from 362.1
  36. Louisa County 726.2, up from 343.2
  37. Charlottesville 708.8, up from 308.9
  38. Warren County 702.1, up from 537.8
  39. Madison County 701.3, up from 429.8
  40. Bath County 699.3, up from 409.9

You can look up each locality in the country on The Daily Yonder’s interactive map.

For more context, here’s how much covid infections have risen in Virginia in the past few weeks:

How virus rates have changed in Virginia. Courtesy of Virginia Department of Health.