HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Positive test results for COVID-19 in the Harrisonburg area are climbing.
According to Dr. Laura Kornegay, with the Central Shenandoah Health District, as of 1:30 p.m. on March 24, they have confirmed four positive or presumptive positive cases of the novel coronavirus in the city of Harrisonburg.
At noon on Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health updated their state website to show 290 positive or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth.
That breakdown listed one of the newest cases in the state's total of 290 in Rockingham County. However, Dr. Kornegay clarified that the new case was in the city of Harrisonburg and said their district was reaching out to VDH to get the state-level dashboard corrected.
As of that time, two cases had been confirmed in Harrisonburg and two cases had been confirmed in Rockingham County.
But an hour and a half later, Kornegay informed WHSV that they had received new positive test results, bringing the total number of cases in the city of Harrisonburg to four.
The total cases in Rockingham County remain at two.
Dr. Kornegay told WHSV that experts are processing more tests for the Harrisonburg area on Tuesday, so results may continue to come in.
Kornegay said that, moving forward, like other health districts across the state, they will not be releasing as much information for every newly confirmed case, including the newest Harrisonburg case. Those detailed releases are instead reserved largely for the first cases identified in counties and cities.
At this time, there have been no cases confirmed in Augusta County, Page County, Shenandoah County, or, in our West Virginia area, in Pendleton, Hardy, or Grant counties.
Dept. of Health investigators have been looking into the two previously confirmed cases in Rockingham County to determine who the patients may have been in contact with to try and determine where the virus was contracted.
The initial case in Harrisonburg was for a patient in their 60s. One of the Rockingham County cases was for a patient in their 30s or 40s.
The other most recently identified Rockingham County case was a JMU student who traveled to Spain over her spring break before returning home early as travel restrictions went into effect. She shared her experience with the coronavirus with WHSV this past weekend, saying she expects many people may not realize they have been infected, like she initially didn't.
She self-quarantined as soon as she returned to the U.S.
Where are the confirmed cases in Virginia?
The Virginia Department of Health updates its state website at noon each day with the new total and a breakdown of the cases by locality. Those numbers 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.
The newest Harrisonburg cases will not appear on the VDH website until Wednesday at the earliest.
According to the department's March 24 breakdown, 4,470 people in Virginia had been tested for the virus, with 290 positive results. That testing number was an increase of about 800 from the day before.
Their breakdown and location map, available to the public here, briefly had a region-specific breakdown of which cases in an area were travel-related, which came from contact with a known case, and which have unknown sources of transmission — However, those numbers were discontinued by the VDH due to the logistics of keeping them updated with the constantly growing case total.
Here's the full breakdown of cases as of noon on March 24:
• Alexandria City - 8
• Botetourt County - 1
• Arlington County - 36
• Harrisonburg - 2
• Rockbridge County - 1
• Rockingham County - 2
• Amherst County - 1
• Bedford County - 1
• Chesapeake City - 1
• Chesterfield County - 10
• Charles City County - 1
• Goochland County - 3
• Hanover County - 2
• Accomack County - 1
• Fairfax County - 46
• Henrico County - 14
• Lee County - 2
• Loudoun County - 18
• Norfolk - 5
• James City County - 37
• Newport News - 3
• Williamsburg - 5
• York County - 6
• Prince Edward County - 1
• Danville - 1
• Portsmouth - 3
• Prince William County - 23
• Spotsylvania County - 2
• Stafford County - 6
• Culpeper County - 2
• Richmond - 11
• Halifax County - 1
• Mecklenburg County - 2
• Albemarle County - 2
• Charlottesville - 5
• Fluvanna County - 1
• Louisa County - 2
• Gloucester County - 2
• Virginia Beach - 17
• Franklin County - 1
• Isle of Wight County - 2
• Suffolk County - 1
Who gets tested for the virus?
Currently, there are two main reasons someone would be tested for the coronavirus: having symptoms and exposure to an infected person.
The main symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. These look a lot like the flu and the common cold, so it takes a physician to determine if testing for the virus is necessary.
In our area, receiving a test requires both showing symptoms and having either traveled to an area with confirmed COVID-19 cases or being in contact with someone with a confirmed case. Without each of those stipulations, medical professionals are unlikely to allow you to be tested to reserve a limited supply of tests for people who do meet those guidelines.
How does the coronavirus test work?
For a patient, the process of being tested for the virus is easy and can potentially be done almost anywhere. It typically involves taking a swab from deep in a patient’s nasal cavity to collect cells from the back of the nose.
The sample is then sent to a lab, where it will be tested to determine if the patient’s cells are infected with the virus. The same process is used to collect a sample from a patient who is tested for flu.
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.
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. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
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.