For the first time since Feb. 19, no one was reported dead today from COVID-19 in the West Piedmont Health District. There also were no new hospitalizations. This stalls a record surge of deaths that on Wednesday set a record with 15, mostly because of a record post-holiday surge of cases in December. There were also 20 new cases in the district on Thursday, 7 each in Henry and Patrick counties and 6 in Franklin County. Martinsville had none. The 7-day rolling average dropped back to 20, its lowest level since Oct. 7. Since the pandemic registered its first case in the district on March 20, there have been 10,670 cases, 638 hospitalizations and 272 deaths….This is the new reality in the West Piedmont Health District: There were more deaths reported Wednesday morning than there were new cases and hospitalizations combined for COVID-19. A record 15 residents were reported to have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus….Read about the Sheltons, who both had COVID-19 but are beleaguered in their attempts to be vaccinated…The majority of U.S. small businesses aren’t requiring COVID-19 tests for employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Two sectors, health care and hospitality, had higher rates of requiring employees to test negative before working than the national average. Cities and states are rapidly expanding access to vaccines as the U.S. races to head off a resurgence in coronavirus infections and to reopen schools and businesses. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says the state’s mask mandate will continue until a “critical mass” of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The 7-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased from 81,142 on Feb. 16 to 65,666 on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and the 7-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased from 2,170 on Feb. 16 to 1,986 on Tuesday. The 7-day rolling test positivity rate in the U.S. decreased from 5.5% on Feb. 16 to 4.2%. The highest positivity rates: Idaho (23.9%), South Dakota (23.6%) and Iowa (20%). Some 51.7 million people, or 15.6% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the CDC, while 26.1 million people have completed their vaccination, or 7.9% of the population….In a furious last-minute push, Democrats are scrambling to put their final touches on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that the entire caucus will have to support, a task that has proven difficult in the final hours of negotiations and revealed the uphill climb the party will have in moving President Joe Biden’s agenda in the future….A weekend mass vaccination clinic in Roanoke will deliver 8,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s new one-shot vaccine primarily to younger adults with medical conditions, as part of the state’s plan to stage mass clinics across the state….The Virginia Department of Health reports this morning there have been 581,408 cases and 9,326 deaths statewide — up by 31 since Wednesday. Some 24,414 people have been hospitalized. Henry County has had 4,223 cases, with 289 hospitalizations and 115 deaths. Martinsville has had 1,508 cases, with 128 hospitalizations and 64 deaths. Patrick County has had 1,210 cases including 93 hospitalizations and 36 deaths. Franklin County has had 3,729 cases, 128 hospitalizations and 57 deaths. Danville has reported 4,340 cases (112 deaths), and Pittsylvania County has had 4,784 (69 deaths). Johns Hopkins University’s real-time map showed 115,273,110 cases worldwide and 2,561,738 deaths. In the U.S. there have been 28,761,399 cases and 518,459 deaths because of COVID-19.

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