County offices close as COVID cases continue to rise; VDH locality breakdown

As of Sunday, September 13, the Virginia Department of Health is reporting 634 positive COVID-19 cases in Mecklenburg County, which is a 6.1% increase from last week’s totals. These numbers reflect the collective positive case results since the start of testing earlier this year. The VDH does not provide the number of individuals who have recovered from the virus nor does it provide the number of current positive case numbers.

As previously determined, most of these cases can be traced to outbreaks within the county at places such as long term care businesses, correctional facilities, educational institutions, and congregate settings.  It has been reported that the Baskerville Correctional Facility has over 100 positive cases and Clarksville Elementary has had at least one employee confirmed to have the virus.

Long-term care facilities still stand as the largest centers of outbreak in the state. There have been 396 total outbreaks located in these facilities in Virginia with a resulting 9,666 case count and 1,389 deaths. The most recent outbreaks have been found in unnamed congregate settings such as churches, gyms, businesses, etc.

The VDH website provides the positive cases by zip code. The following shows the numbers as reported in each Mecklenburg County locality:

South Hill, 105, Baskerville, 164, Boydton, 32, Bracey, 13, Chase City, 131, Clarksville, 97, LaCrosse, 49, Skipwith, 8, Buffalo Junction, 19, and Nelson, 10.

According to the Department of Health “there are pros and cons to providing disease data by ZIP code. One of the main benefits is that people generally know what ZIP code they live in, while they probably don’t know their census block number. This helps make the data relatable at this very local level. Most of the negatives of this level of data have to do with the added complexity.” In order to make it easier to interpret this data, it’s helpful to know that:

VDH has county data on every case and laboratory report, but we do not have ZIP code data on every record. Because this field is not complete, the total number of cases and tests by ZIP code may not match the same total count by county.

VDH is reporting testing encounters among out-of-state residents who are tested in Virginia. These tests will not be included in data presented by ZIP codes in Virginia. For more about our testing data, see this blog post (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/2020/05/07/how-is-vdh-calculating-the-number-of-people-tested/).

ZIP codes are primarily used by the post office for delivering mail. The most efficient mail delivery routes don’t necessarily care about city and county borders. Just like you might have a mailing address for a city that you don’t live in, ZIP codes sometimes cross county and census block lines. This can make it difficult for public health to look at rates per 100,000 population, which is one of the ways we look for patterns in disease data that prompt action.

Because these data are provided at such a local level, VDH needs to take extra steps to protect the privacy of personal health information. To do this, we suppress case counts of 1-4. We are not suppressing small case counts by city/county because the smallest counties still have enough people in them to provide some privacy.

Some ZIP codes are mostly industrial or commercial, so there aren’t a lot of people living in them. These ZIP codes may be grouped together with other ZIP codes to provide a better picture of a residential area. VDH is doing this by presenting ZIP Code Tabulation Areas, or ZCTAs. You can read more about ZCTA methodology on the Census website.

Some ZIP codes may seem surprisingly populous because they serve as the mailing address for a large group of people. College campus mailboxes and P.O. boxes are both examples of this.

In August, the Town of Clarksville released a statement that several employees of the town had tested positive. They assured that the affected employees are quarantined and let the public know that the Town Hall Office and Police Department office have been closed to the public for the time being. Public meetings have also been cancelled until further notice and will be rescheduled.

As a result of the climbing positive case numbers, all Mecklenburg County offices, with the exception of the courthouses, have been closed to the public. The county encourages everyone to use the drop boxes outside of the offices and to please call ahead for questions.

There has been no word yet from Mecklenburg County Public Schools and whether or not they plan to continue face to face learning for Kindergarten through 5th grade, English as a second language students, and students with disabilities. The next School Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 21 at the MCPS office in Boydton at 7 p.m.