The New River Valley may have experienced its last COVID-19 surge.

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations decline in the New River Health District, the surge as a result of the contagious delta variant is slowing down, said Noelle Bissell, health director for the district during an Oct. 18 meeting with members of the news media.

There were 37 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the health district as of Oct. 18, down from 47 last week, she said.

Hospitals are maintaining normal operations, but beds at these facilities remain at a premium.

“It’s likely that this will be our very last surge,” Bissell said, explaining that more people now have COVID-19 antibodies to fight the virus.

Still, “we don't expect that COVID’s going to go away,” she said. “We expect to see smaller waves that will ebb and flow.”

In order to stop the virus’ spread, people should continue public health mitigation strategies, such as wearing masks indoors and avoiding crowded spaces. People also should not disregard symptoms that they experience that are consistent with COVID-19.

“We are asking that people don’t assume they have allergies or a cold or anything other than COVID until they get tested. That is one of the issues right now,” Bissell said.

With case numbers going down, demand for COVID-19 testing in the district also is declining.

Boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are likely to be approved within the next week, Bissell said, while the Pfizer booster vaccine is available now.

If people want a booster, they should opt for the vaccine that they previously received. The FDA is considering whether the vaccines could be mixed, Bissell said.

She expects that the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 will be approved by early November.

The health district is prepared to offer all boosters and the Pfizer vaccine for children once authorized, though the district does not plan to hold large clinics.

“Based on booster demand we have seen and based on what we think the uptick will be, we don’t anticipate that we will need those large scale events,” Bissell said. “If it turns out that demand is just surging and we need to, we are more than ready to pivot and do that.”

Right now, many people are receiving Pfizer boosters at local pharmacies, Bissell said.

Also, there is a new vaccination center at Valley View Mall in Roanoke that is offering all vaccines through the end of the year.

As for the large population of college students in the region, Bissell said she does not expect a huge surge in students seeking booster vaccines.

“The younger and healthier students will probably not consider themselves higher risk and will not seek out boosters,” she said. “I do think that will narrow that population down.”

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