Doctor shares concern as Phase 3 begins: “Just because you can do certain things, doesn’t mean you should do certain things.”

Dr. Taison Bell explains increase in COVID-19 cases as Virginia begins Phase 3.
Dr. Taison Bell explains increase in COVID-19 cases as Virginia begins Phase 3.(NBC29)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The commonwealth of Virginia is now in Phase 3 of reopening, but health professionals are sharing concerns as the number of positive COVID-19 cases increase, especially heading into the July 4th weekend.

“Just because you can do certain things, doesn’t mean you should do certain things. And especially when we see these concerning trends going on around the country and even some concerning trends around the commonwealth,” said Dr. Taison Bell of UVA Health.

Dr. Bell said he and many of his colleagues believe the start of Phase 3 in the commonwealth is premature, as states across the country are seeing a spike in positive COVID-19 cases after rolling back restrictions.

“Our percent positive tests are climbing in much of Virginia now after many weeks of having a decline. And what that means is that our tests are going up, but our cases are going up faster than our tests are going up,” Dr. Bell said.

Under Phase 3, nonessential retail and restaurants no longer have to limit indoor capacity, gyms open at 75% capacity, entertainment venues open at 50% capacity and personal gatherings can have up to 250 people.

Dr. Bell says reopening, even with some of these restrictions in place, mean we have to be more vigilant than ever before.

“You know, we can still adhere to best practices, stay home unless we have to go out, wear a mask when you go out, practice social distancing, avoiding large settings and gatherings of people, frequent hand hygiene. These things are going to be more important than ever before,” Dr. Bell said.

Ryan McKay of the Thomas Jefferson Health District says because of the percent of positive cases remains under 10% of all reported cases in the area, the health district is not concerned just yet.

“Right now, we feel okay. We’re not concerned. The target is really is 10% and we’ve been well under 10% and really at 7.2 we’re really well under that positivity rate,” McKay said in an interview.

But Dr. Bell said there’s enough evidence in case trends since relaxing restrictions.

“I don’t necessarily want to wait until we get to 10%. We have evidence that the virus is circulating. It’s a definite change in our trend from before and we’ve seen nationally what’s happening. I think that’s enough evidence that we need to rethink this,” Dr. Bell said.

Governor Northam announced just before Phase 3 went into effect that bar seating and congregating in restaurants is still prohibited, but Dr. Bell said if trends continue, more restrictions will need to be put back in place.

Copyright 2020 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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