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Local coronavirus case totals showing significant improvement

Although Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) website shows what at a glance seems like a dramatic increase in novel coronavirus cases for Buckingham County in the past week, Piedmont Health District Director Dr. H. Robert Nash said those figures differ greatly from the health district’s case investigations, which show the area’s daily case numbers are “dropping like flies.”

The encouraging news came Wednesday, June 17. On Wednesday morning, VDH’s website reported a total, overall coronavirus case count of 542 for Buckingham, up 45 cases from a week prior. With the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) only reporting an additional 11 cases from Buckingham County prisons in that time, the jump seemed both concerning and difficult to explain.

VADOC and VDH reported case numbers have had many discrepancies in previous weeks, leading to concern from county officials and area residents about how to stay on top of coronavirus case trends.

Nash said Wednesday afternoon he had been contacted by Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca Carter regarding concern surrounding new figures.

“Nobody’s numbers agree,” he said. “Our district numbers come from our district case investigations, so we know a name and an address of every person that’s in our spreadsheet, and that spreadsheet is run by the district epidemiologist only. She runs every single entry, and I know that every single one is correct. There are no duplications. There are no deletions.”

Nash said the district’s numbers have for several weeks been consistently higher than VDH’s reports by approximately 11 cases. Despite the recent increase in VDH’s numbers, Nash said he went through district numbers line-through-line after being contacted by Carter and only saw six new cases for Buckingham County between June 6 and June 13, the district’s most up-to-date information.

He added those six most recent cases were widely distributed across the county, with no duplicates and no clusters of cases. He added the district is tracking more than 930 coronavirus cases, over half of which are in Buckingham.

Nash highlighted that the discrepancies in numbers hide a very encouraging statistic — since May 24, the commonwealth’s rate of newly-reported cases have dropped by 50% each week.

“In our region, which is from the North Carolina border up to a county and a half above and including Richmond, our seven-day rolling average is about four cases a day,” Nash said of last week’s numbers.

Nash said he was very excited about the daily case numbers, which he described are “dropping like flies.”

He added that the numbers he views as most important include hospitalization and death data, which monitor the most severe cases. He said the commonwealth’s hospitalization and death figures are doing quite well compared to other states.

Nash emphasized that he was not aware of any recent large increase in cases in Buckingham, such as the VDH figures suggest.

“If they were there we would have investigated,” he said.

VDH numbers are also not up to date with the confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the county. Although five Buckingham prisoners have died of COVID-19, the county’s VDH death toll has remained at three deaths for weeks.

It remains clear that the numbers vary based on different sources, but Nash expressed that the figures are pointing in a good direction for Virginia and the Piedmont Health District.