Delta Variant On the Downhill Slide in Virginia

Source: University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute. COVID still spreading in ten health districts but retreating in twenty.

by James A. Bacon

It appears that Virginia has turned the corner on the Delta variant. According to the weekly update from the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute Friday, the Institute’s COVID-19 model indicates that “cases have peaked and are in gradual decline.”

I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as good news — especially after weeks and weeks of we’re-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket stories from Virginia’s media outlets.

Amusingly, the only article in my VANews clip compilation this morning that acknowledged the Biocomplexity Institute findings comes from the Danville Register & Bee… in an article that COVID cases are still rising in the local health district even as the virus is retreating statewide. Count on the press to find the gray lining of every fluffy white cloud!

In the Saturday edition of VANews, the Martinsville Bulletinalso buried the lede, quoting public health officials as warning people not to relax their vigilance as the virus recedes. Meanwhile, the Winchester Star reported that cases were still on the rise.

I couldn’t find a single article that touted the good news.

So, let Bacon’s Rebellion be the first to report it. The Delta virus is in retreat in the Old Dominion, at least momentarily, and the Biocomplexity Institute is cautiously optimistic that Virginia can avoid a winter surge like the one that occurred last year.

Although the Delta variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible and dangerous, states the report, it caused only 40% of the number of cases experienced during last winter’s surge. “Right now, the Delta wave appears to have peaked,” the report said. However, it also cautions, “the sharpest growth last year occurred over the holidays, beginning around Thanksgiving.’

The big question right now is whether Virginia will experience a repeat of last winter’s surge, with this new variant, in this new environment.

The Virginia Department of Health has partnered with the Metaculus forecasting platform, which aggregates the forecasts of a “highly engaged network of thousands of forecasters.” States the Biocomplexity Institute update: Metaculus forecasters are optimistic that Virginia can avoid a winter surge, giving a greater than 50% chance that cases will peak prior to Thanksgiving, and a greater than 25% chance that cases have already peaked, supporting the idea the Delta wave is at or near its peak.”

The big caveat to all forecasts is that the COVID-19 models are dependent upon human behavior, which can be volatile. The optimistic forecast assumes that Virginians get their booster vaccines and practice masking and social distancing.

Update: I did find this short article on the WVIR website: “COVID-19 Delta variant cases slowly declining in Virginia.”

I’ll admit that I’m a print-news snob. I never paid much attention to TV news, which I regarded as hopelessly superficial. I never imagined I’d see the day when I’d regard TV-station reporting as indispensable. But print has become superficial, and TV news airs perspectives we would never see otherwise.