Masks around campus

Students around campus are donning masks as they begin to return for the fall semester, Aug. 17, 2020.

Editor's note: This article was last updated Friday, Sept. 18.

The Virginia Department of Health forecasts that positive coronavirus cases will continue to rise, but the extent is unknown because of the onset of fall weather and the amount of students receiving online instruction versus being in-person this academic year.

Updated Friday, Virginia has 132,090 confirmed cases, and the VDH’s COVID-19 adaptive model reported 6,968 positive cases for the week of Sept. 6.

The model predicts weekly cases will continuously rise and peak at 8,248 during the week of Sept. 27. 

Weekly cases in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford area are projected to increase and peak at 1,844 during the week ending Oct. 4. If both localities experience a high surge in cases as quoted in the model, the number of weekly cases could be as high as 1,413 during the week ending Sept. 27.

The model also shows rapid growth in positive cases in certain areas. The New River Health District that includes Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and Radford and the Central Shenandoah Health District that includes Augusta, Bath, Rockbridge and Rockingham have reported surging positive cases with 2,591 and 4,568 total positive cases, respectively.

According to the VDH’s locality dashboard, the New River district averages about 90 positive weekly cases in September, an increase from about 10 in August. Central Shenandoah averages nearly 100 positive weekly cases in September, an increase from nearly 20 in August.

Only 10 of Virginia’s 35 health districts have reported declining positive cases: Cumberland Plateau, West Piedmont, Chesterfield, Arlington, Alexandria, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.

“If residents and businesses adhere to good social distancing and infection control practices, new case growth may decrease,” the VDH said. “Otherwise, cases may peak later in the fall or winter.”