Two new deaths in Henry County were reported this morning by the Virginia Department of Health. Henry County also had half the 18 new cases and both hospitalizations in the West Piedmont Health District. That’s now 119 deaths of Henry County residents and 287 in the district since the pandemic began. VDH reported 107 new deaths statewide today, but the deaths could’ve happened any time in recent months. Although data are posted by 5 p.m. the prior afternoon (on Monday, in this case), officials evaluate death certificates and other documents to verify cause before adding them to the database. That can take months, in some cases, because lags are frequent. VDH announced last week it just had started to check the outcomes of cases from the record-setting thousands in the post-holiday surge of January. Officially there already have been 155 deaths recorded since Jan. 1. The 7-day rolling average of deaths actually declined to 4. The 18 new cases left the 7-day rolling average at 15 and dropped the 14-day average per 100,000 population  to 209.8, their lowest points since Oct. 1. In addition to Henry County’s 9 cases, Martinsville and Franklin County had 4 each, and Patrick County had 1. Since the first case of the pandemic was revealed in the district, there have been 10,750 cases, 642 hospitalizations and 287 deaths….Even though a small number of Martinsville City Public Schools students returned to in-person learning on Monday, Superintendent Zeb Talley said he still wants to evaluate the safety of allowing high school sports to resume. He said his focus is getting students back in classrooms in person….The school district began a partial re-opening with pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, special needs and ELL (English Language Learners) students at Clearview Early Childhood Center, which is at 800 Ainsley St….There’s really so much good news to talk about COVID-19 and the West Piedmont Health District, including that the percentage of positive tests for the novel coronavirus is now 5.4% on 61,153 tests….Health districts in the Richmond region began widening vaccine eligibility on Monday following an increase in supply. The expansion would include residents between the ages of 16 and 64 with certain underlying medical conditions that heighten risk of contracting COVID-19 such as cancer, Down syndrome or heart problems….The CDC has released highly anticipated new guidelines for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, saying it is safe for them to gather together without masks indoors and to visit with unvaccinated people in certain circumstances. The new guidance was met with joy and renewed hope that a return to normalcy is around the corner. However, ex-CDC chief Dr. Tom Frieden cautioned that we shouldn’t give up on safety measures yet, saying, “You don’t declare victory in the third quarter.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave a similar worldwide warning, saying, “There are no shortcuts” to recovery. After all, one coronavirus variant is now spreading exponentially through the US, experts say. Meanwhile, it looks like the House will now vote tomorrow on the massive coronavirus relief package….The Virginia Department of Health reports this morning there have been 588,129 cases and 9,790 deaths statewide — up by 107 since Monday. Some 24,841 people have been hospitalized. Henry County has had 4,252 cases, with 291 hospitalizations and 119 deaths. Martinsville has had 1,517 cases, with 128 hospitalizations and 67 deaths. Patrick County has had 1,231 cases including 94 hospitalizations and 38 deaths. Franklin County has had 3,750 cases, 129 hospitalizations and 63 deaths. Danville has reported 4,430 cases (117 deaths), and Pittsylvania County has had 4,759 (71 deaths). Johns Hopkins University’s real-time map showed 117,236,336 cases worldwide and 2,604,058 deaths. In the U.S. there have been 29,045,909 cases and 525,904 deaths because of COVID-19.

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