Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by 716 on Saturday
772,555 tests have been run for the virus in Virginia, with 65,109 positive cases.
As of Saturday, July 4, Virginia has had 65,109 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
That’s a rise of 716 cases since Friday, out of 12,526 tests newly added to the system, which comes out to 5.7% of the newest tests coming back positive.
On Wednesday, July 1, the commonwealth moved into Phase 3 of Governor Ralph Northam’s ‘Forward Virginia’ plan for reopening, which allowed nonessential retail businesses to fully open, restaurants to fully open without bar seating, gyms to open at 75% capacity, entertainment venues to open at 50% capacity and gatherings of up to 250 people.
State officials are basing any decisions about moving into each phase, as well as any potential fallback to previous restrictions if spikes happen, on 7-day and 14-day trends in the data.
For the past several weeks, those trends have been good news: with increasing test capacity, decreasing percentage positivity (the number of cases confirmed as a ratio of the amount of testing), and decreasing hospitalizations — though other states around the country have seen new spikes.
This week, there are 453 newly reported cases (at 5.4% positivity) from Sunday to Monday, 598 newly reported cases (at 6.7% positivity) from Monday to Tuesday, 416 newly reported cases (at 2.7% positivity) from Tuesday to Wednesday, 532 newly reported cases (at 2.9% positivity) from Wednesday to Thursday, and 658 newly reported cases (at 4.2% positivity) from Thursday to Friday.
Most tests are PCR tests that take several days to process, and the majority of people still only get tested when symptomatic. Symptoms can take up to two weeks to develop, so test results reported each day reflect what the situation in Virginia looked like several days before. Antibody tests process results faster, but test whether someone has had the virus in the past: not necessarily if they currently have it, and their reliability is lower.
Virginia has been meeting the governor’s benchmark of steady PPE supplies and open hospital capacity for more than a month now, with 4,024 hospital beds available and no Virginia hospitals reporting any supply problems – although 2 licensed nursing facilities are reporting PPE supply problems.
The commonwealth increased from around 2,000 tests a day in late April to the 5,000 range in the start of May, and was steadily hitting around 10,000 a day by the end of May, which Dr. Karen Remley, head of Virginia’s testing task force, said was the goal for Phase 1. Over the most recent weeks, testing has stayed in the range of around 8,000 to 15,000 a day.
The executive order requiring Virginians to wear face coverings when entering indoor businesses that went into effect across Virginia on May 29 will remain in effect indefinitely into the future.
Statewide case totals and testing numbers as of July 4
By July 4, the Virginia Department of Health had received reports of 62,400 confirmed and 2,709 probable cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth.
"Probable" cases are cases that were diagnosed by a doctor based on symptoms and exposure without a test – also known as clinical diagnoses.
Those positive test results are out of total tests administered in Virginia, which included 696,520 PCR tests and 76,035 antibody tests (The Dept. of Health announced in May that they would break testing data down by diagnostic and antibody tests.)
This week, from Sunday to Monday, there were 8,042 new PCR tests and 338 antibody tests reported; 8,666 new PCR tests and 317 new antibody tests from Monday to Tuesday; 13,587 new PCR tests and 1,442 new antibody tests from Tuesday to Wednesday; 15,602 new PCR tests and 2,756 new antibody tests from Wednesday to Thursday; and 14,097 new PCR tests and 1,452 new antibody tests from Thursday to Friday.
A lot of the testing has been conducted through health department-sponsored community testing events around the commonwealth, through which state health officials have said the goal is to get tests into areas in the most need, and those events do not turn anyone away, regardless of symptoms.
Overall, considering testing numbers and positive results, about 8.4% of Virginians who have been tested have received positive results. At the start of May, that percentage was standing steadily around 17%, but with increased testing and decreased case rates, it’s come down over time. However, some localities have higher percentages, as outlined in our “local cases” section below.
At this point, 6,405 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and at least 1,849 have died of causes related to the disease.
The hospitalization and death numbers are totals confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health, which are always delayed by several days due to the logistics of medical facilities reporting information to local health districts, which then report it to the state health department.
The hospitalization numbers are cumulative — they represent the total number of people hospitalized due to the disease throughout the pandemic and not the total number currently in the hospital. For current hospitalization stats, the VHHA offers more helpful data.
The state website shows a lot of detail by locality, including hospitalizations and deaths for each city or county, and are broken down by zip code here, if you want to track cases on a neighborhood level.
Where are our local cases?
Overall, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s July 4 breakdown, 772,555 tests have been run for the virus in Virginia, with 65,109 positive results.
The department’s breakdown and location map, available to the public here, shows the number of cases confirmed each day, number of people tested, total hospitalizations, total deaths, demographic breakdowns, and testing numbers, as well as breakdowns by health district.
Here’s a breakdown of cases for our region as of 10 a.m. on July 4. You can find the breakdown for the entire state in the chart at the bottom of this article.
Numbers sometimes decrease day to day when the health department determines that a test initially reported in one locality was actually for a resident of another city, county, or state.
Central Shenandoah: 2,130 total cases
Augusta County - 192 (+2 from Friday)
• Buena Vista - 15
• Harrisonburg - 963 (+6 from Friday)
• Highland County - 3
• Lexington - 13 (+2 from Friday)
• Rockbridge County - 33 (+1 from Friday)
• Rockingham County - 743 (+4 from Friday)
• Staunton - 77 (+3 from Friday)
• Waynesboro - 91 (+2 from Friday)
Outbreaks: 18, with 7 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a healthcare setting, 8 in congregate settings, 1 in a correctional facility, and 1 in an educational setting | 643 cases associated with outbreaks
Total tests: 20,129
Local percent positive: 10.6%
Lord Fairfax: 2,068 total cases
• Clarke County - 55 (+1 from Friday)
• Frederick County - 518 (+1 from Friday)
• Page County - 281
• Shenandoah County - 587 (+3 from Friday)
• Warren County - 295 (+1 from Friday)
• Winchester - 332 (+2 from Friday)
Outbreaks: 26, with 11 in long-term care facilities, 5 in healthcare settings, 9 in congregate settings, and 1 in a correctional facility | 700 cases associated with outbreaks
Total tests: 22,487
Local percent positive: 9.2%
Like in many parts of Virginia and the nation, many of the Shenandoah Valley’s cases have been attributable to outbreaks within particular facilities. By July 4, the Central Shenandoah Health District had identified 18 outbreaks and the Lord Fairfax Health District had 26.
Health department officials have not specified the majority of the locations of our outbreaks, because the Virginia Department of Health, for months, interpreted Virginia code as treating facilities the same as “persons,” meaning their anonymity had to be protected. So information about outbreaks is only released to the public if a facility grants permission for that to be released, and that has not been often.
However, on June 19, the Northam administration reversed course and released comprehensive, facility-specific information on the outbreaks around Virginia at long-term care centers.
Outside of long-term care center outbreaks, outbreaks in our area have also been confirmed at New Market Poultry, the Harrisonburg Men’s Diversion Center, with at least 25 positive cases, and LSC Communications, which had at least six cases by the end of April but then stopped providing updates on their employee hotline so that media outlets would not have access to the information, which was not publicly provided.
On May 26, RSW Regional Jail confirmed at least 15 people at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19, as the outbreak identified inside a correctional facility in the Lord Fairfax Health District. A day later, that number was up to 18 positive tests.
New Market Poultry Products, which has more than 100 employees working on a daily basis, confirmed near the end of April that they had multiple employees test positive – though an exact number was not provided and no update has come since then.
None of the other Shenandoah Valley poultry plants have released any information about COVID-19 cases to the public, but 18 workers tested positive at the Pilgrim’s Pride in Moorefield, W.Va. and Cargill in Dayton has confirmed the death of one employee due to COVID-19 – though never any information on the number of cases at the facility.
Poultry plants and other meat processing facilities have been hotspots for the virus across the country and a focus of Gov. Northam's in Virginia. State health commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver has also referenced the situation at poultry plants in Harrisonburg leading to a disproportionate number of cases among the Latino community in the Shenandoah Valley, though, again the facilities themselves have released no information publicly.
The only exact number for poultry workers that has been provided is that as of May 20, at least 317 poultry plant workers living in the Central Shenandoah Health District had tested positive.
Many of the local outbreaks that do not have confirmed locations have been identified in congregate settings, which could include workplaces, apartment complexes, churches, gyms, or any setting with a group of people in one place. While WHSV has received reports from viewers about specific stores, for instance, if the business does not provide consent for their information to be shared, the health department cannot confirm any information about cases there.
Of the state’s 6,405 total hospitalizations, at least 173 have been in the Central Shenandoah Health District. Of those, 7 have been in Augusta County, 1 in Buena Vista, 72 in Harrisonburg, 79 in Rockingham County, 7 in Staunton, and 7 in Waynesboro.
In the Lord Fairfax Health District, there have been at least 183 hospitalizations. 65 of those have been in Shenandoah County and 29 in Page County.
As far as deaths, there have been 31 reported in Shenandoah County, 23 in Page County, two in Augusta County, 27 in Harrisonburg, and 11 in Rockingham County.
Deaths, like all health department data, are reported by a person's listed residence.
Dr. Norm Oliver, the state’s health commissioner, has said that it often takes several days before local health districts are able to enter death information into the state database. Dr. Laura Kornegay, director of the Central Shenandoah Health District, told WHSV that deaths first have to be reported to them by medical facilities, which is a major cause for delays that have often been seen on the numbers reported for our area.
Dr. Kornegay also explained that if someone has tested positive for COVID-19, that's what goes on their death certificate. Those death certificates have a space to list secondary causes of death, and that's where ongoing health issues like heart disease and cancer are listed. Some people have accused medical facilities of artificially inflating death tolls by doing that, but it's the same process by which flu deaths are reported every year.
Wondering about the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in Virginia? Recovery information is not required to be sent to the Department of Health, so there is no accurate way to track that data for every single confirmed case. Individual health districts may track cases as "active" and "non-active," but that data is not published anywhere in aggregate.
But there is a way to track the number of patients who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and have since been discharged – effectively tracking how many people have recovered from the most severe cases.
The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association updates their own dashboard of data each day on hospital-specific statistics, including bed availability, ventilator usage, and more. Their online dashboard indicates that, as of July 4, at least 8,741 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from the hospital.
Unlike the VDH data that reports cumulative hospitalizations, their data on hospitalizations reflects people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 (whether with confirmed or pending cases), and that number is at 808, which is one of the lowest points since the start of the pandemic.
The data used by the VDH to report cumulative hospitalizations is based on information reported in hospital claims. On the other hand, the numbers reported by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association are based on a current census from hospitals, which provides a separate data set.
West Virginia updates
In the part of West Virginia we cover, there have been 16 cases in Grant County, 45 cases in Hardy County, and 13 cases, along with one death, in Pendleton County.
Timing of VDH data
The Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 website is updating with the latest statewide numbers somewhere between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. each day.
The numbers that appear on that list are based on the cases that had been submitted to the department by 5 p.m. the previous day, so there is always some lag between when local health districts announce positive test results and when the department’s numbers reflect those new results.
Reporting by local health districts
Our Virginia counties are primarily served by the Central Shenandoah Health District, which covers Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge and Rockingham counties, as well as the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton and Waynesboro; and the Lord Fairfax Health District, which covers Shenandoah, Page, Frederick, Warren, and Clarke counties, as well as the city of Winchester.
The statewide situation in Virginia
Virginia officially entered Phase 3 on Wednesday, July 1. Nonessential retail businesses are permitted to fully open, along with restaurants, as long as there is no bar seating. Gyms can be open at 75% capacity, and entertainment venues can be open at 50% capacity. There is a 250-person gathering limit.
Executive Order 63 will remain in effect for the foreseeable future, making it mandatory for almost all Virginians to wear face coverings when entering businesses. You can learn how that can be enforced here.
Executive Order 55, the ‘Stay at Home’ order first signed by Northam on March 30, is now a ‘Safer at Home’ order, encouraging Virginians to continue staying home whenever possible as the safest way to prevent COVID-19′s spread and specifically telling Virginians vulnerable to the virus to stay home except for essential needs.
Virginia's state of emergency, which was originally set until June 10, was extended by Governor Northam on May 26 to run indefinitely.
The Virginia Supreme Court’s judicial emergency, which suspended all non-essential, non-emergency court hearings, expired on May 17 and court hearings across most of Virginia resumed on Monday, May 18. But a few weeks later, on June 8, the Supreme Court of Virginia acted on Gov. Northam’s request to halt all eviction proceedings through at least June 28.
DMV offices in Virginia began gradually reopening on Monday, May 18, and continue to open up more customer service centers around the state for appointments to handle business that can only be carried out in-person.
Extensions have been granted to people with expiring credentials for themselves or their vehicles, like licenses and registrations, and Virginia State Police have not been enforcing inspections.
More information on Virginia entering Phase 3 can be found here.
What to know about preventing the virus
Most people don't suffer much from COVID-19, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly and people with existing health problems.
It spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract the virus by touching those objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Avoid contact with sick people.
• Avoid non-essential travel.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent or antiviral medication to treat COVID-19. The best way to avoid illness is preventing exposure, which is why governments around the world have implemented Stay at Home orders.
Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.