They’re no longer required, but local health officials are urging everyone to again wear masks when in public — even fully vaccinated people.

COVID-19 cases are surging in the Charlottesville area, and beyond, due to the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. 

Last week, the seven-day moving average of positive cases in the Blue Ridge Health District hit highs not seen since February. District officials predict that number will continue to rise over the next several weeks — particularly after school begins and children and university students return to in-person learning.

But although it is more transmissible, officials say, simple mitigation strategies, like masking and social distancing, could go a long way in reducing its spread.

“We are definitely in the midst of this surge,” Ryan McKay, the COVID-19 incident commander for the local Blue Ridge Health District, said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “A lot of settings where we’re seeing individuals test positive are settings where masking and other mitigation strategies — such as social distancing, particularly in indoor settings — may have prevented those cases or outbreaks from occurring.”

What’s more, the majority of positive cases are among unvaccinated people. 

Across the state, less than 0.1% of fully vaccinated people have tested positive for coronavirus.

“The really good news is that the individual who has that vaccine is protected,” said Dr. Denise Bonds, director of the Blue Ridge Health District. 

Bonds pointed to an outbreak that occurred in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in July as evidence of the vaccine’s efficacy against the Delta variant.

“We did have individuals vaccinated who became infected, but they were protected from the really severe consequences of the disease,” she said. “They didn’t end up in the hospital and they didn’t die. And that’s a really powerful statement.”

In response to the surge in local cases, the Blue Ridge Health District is offering additional testing sites to anyone ages 2 and up. Testing is free and you’re not required to have symptoms to get a test.

With the increased demand for tests, the health district announced that beginning this week they will no longer call people who test negative. To view test results, patients should create a University of Virginia Hospital MyChart account. Results will be posted there within 24-hours.

The district will continue to call people who test positive.

The district also continues its effort to vaccinate people against COVID-19. Health officials continue to hold weekly clinics in various locations around the district, along with pop-up events and in-home vaccines.

For the most recent list of places offering vaccines, click here.

“I would just use the opportunity to encourage anyone who has not yet been vaccinated, who’s been sitting on the fence, to really take that step forward and start the vaccination process,” Bonds said. “It’s going to keep you safe.”