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COVID-19 cases rise by 772 as curve starts flattening in Virginia

Graphic courtesy: Virginia Department of Health
Graphic courtesy: Virginia Department of Health(WHSV)
Published: May. 8, 2020 at 9:16 AM EDT
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As of Friday, May 8, Virginia has had 22,342 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

That's a rise of 772 cases since Thursday, alongside higher testing numbers than what accompanied previously higher daily increases.

Virginia saw a steady rise in cases from mid-March through the start of May, climbing from 2,000 cases on Friday, April 3, and hitting nearly 17,000 by May 1.

So far in May, Virginia – which had been ranked among states with the lowest per capita testing – has significantly ramped up its testing capacity, and increased testing has, in part, led to more positive cases detected, but daily increases have dropped off from previous highs, meaning that the curve appears to be flattening.

No numbers were ever reported by the department on Wednesday,

, so the previous numbers reported included both Wednesday and Thursday, which had a total rise of 1,314 cases, averaging out to just over 650 cases a day.

As the daily totals fall from a peak of over 1,000 at the start of May, the governor is looking to May 15 as the date to start gradually reopening, based on his criteria of a 14-day trend of declining daily case totals

, which also called for comprehensive testing, a steady supply of PPE, and requirements on open hospital capacity.

The phased reopening plan will involve a lot of continuing restrictions, like social distancing, masks, and increased sanitation, to prevent any future spikes that would break our declining trend – because the flattening curve means that the restrictions so far have worked, according to public health officials.

A full sense of Virginia's cases had been hard to gauge when, until last Friday, less than one percent of Virginians had been tested, falling well below the national testing average.

But now, the commonwealth is running around 3,000 to 5,000 tests a day. The governor has said the goal is to get to 10,000 cases a day in

.

Virginia has been meeting the benchmark of steady PPE supplies and open hospital capacity over recent days, with 4,635 hospital beds available and no Virginia hospitals reporting any supply problems.

As testing increases, the rate of tested Virginians who received positive results is also starting to slowly drop, and Northam says that percentage will be a main factor considered too.

Statewide case totals and testing numbers as of May 8

By May 8, the Virginia Department of Health had received reports of 21,274 confirmed and 1,068 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 143,220 total tests administered in Virginia, which were between 128,877 unique people. (

that around 10% of people get tested more than once, so the state now reports both total tests and total people tested).

Tests from Monday to Tuesday increased by more than 5,000. From Tuesday to Thursday, there were 8,620 new tests, and from Thursday to Friday, tests rose by 6,662.

Overall, considering testing numbers and positive results, about 15.6% of Virginians who have been tested have received positive results. The recent increase in testing has already brought that percentage point down from over 17% last week – and that number is a key to reopening on schedule, Gov. Northam

.

At this point, 3,059 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and at least 812 have died of causes related to the disease - an increase of 43 deaths since Thursday.

The hospitalization and death numbers are the 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, when then report it to the state health department.

The

shows a lot of detail by locality, including hospitalizations and deaths for each city or county, and will soon be updated to break the data down by zip code as well.

The hospitalization numbers are cumulative — they represent the total number of people hospitalized due to the disease throughout the outbreak and not the total number currently in the hospital. For current hospitalization stats,

.

Local cases

In our area, as of May 8, there were at least 55 confirmed cases in Augusta County, 574 cases in Harrisonburg, 320 cases in Rockingham County, 123 cases in Page County, 236 cases in Shenandoah County, 15 cases in Staunton, 20 cases in Waynesboro, 2 cases in Highland County, 150 cases in Frederick County, 61 cases in Winchester, and 8 cases in Rockbridge County, along with 5 in Lexington.

Local outbreaks

Part of the Harrisonburg number, which has the most confirmed cases in our region, comes from

, where the Virginia Department of Health and UVA Health collaborated to test every resident and staff member, finding 81 residents and 12 staff members positive.

By Tuesday, May 5, the facility had

due to coronavirus.

A separate outbreak in Harrisonburg,

, has resulted in at least 25 positive cases, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Another involves

as of April 30. The health district has not publicly identified LCS as an outbreak site, but the number of cases they have confirmed to employees meets the VDH definition of a congregate setting outbreak. Since that date, the company has ceased providing updates on their employee hotline.

In Page County, which went from 30 cases on April 23 to 100 as of April 30 and is now up to 122, a large part is accounted for from an outbreak at

, where 59 residents tested positive for the virus amid an outbreak.

As of May 7,

Skyview Springs confirmed to WHSV/a> that 12 people there have died of COVID-19-related causes. The facility has 115 residents total. According to Dr. Colin Greene, with the Lord Fairfax Health District, about 10-15 percent of staff members there tested positive as well. In Shenandoah County, New Market Poultry Products, which has more than 100 employees working on a daily basis, confirmed that they have had multiple employees test positive – though an exact number was not provided. The Central Shenandoah Health District currently has 11 identified outbreaks and the Lord Fairfax Health District has 13. Dr. Colin Greene, the director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, told WHSV last Thursday that they're looking into three "significant outbreaks" in their area, including two at workplaces and one at a long-term care facility, though he does not have permission from the facilities to share their identities. Those outbreaks are a major factor behind the increase of cases and deaths across their district since last week. Health department officials have not specified the majority of the locations of our outbreaks, given that Virginia state code requires permission to be granted by a facility for their information to be released to the media. That;s because Virginia code treats facilities the same as "persons," meaning their anonymity has to be protected. Many of the local outbreaks 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. Hospitalizations Of the state's total hospitalizations, at least 57 have been in the Central Shenandoah Health District. Of those, 2 have been in Augusta County, 33 in Harrisonburg, 21 in Rockingham County, and 1 in Waynesboro. In the Lord Fairfax Health District, there have been at least 55 hospitalizations. Eighteen of those have been in Shenandoah County and 13 in Page County. Deaths As far as deaths, there have been 4 reported in Shenandoah County, 11 in Page County, one in Augusta County, 21 in Harrisonburg, and one in Rockingham County. Although the statewide numbers list 21 deaths for Harrisonburg, the Central Shenandoah Health District confirmed that 22 residents of Accordius Health Harrisonburg have died of coronavirus-related causes. However, if any of those patients had listed residences elsewhere in the state, the health department statistics are based on people's resident addresses. With one death in Rockingham County, WHSV confirmed with Cargill that an employee of their Dayton plant has died of COVID-19. The company did not provide further details on if any outbreaks are investigation, though the situation at poultry facilities across Virginia has been a major focus of the governor's. 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 the delay 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 – the same process is how flu deaths are reported. Other local updates Just to the east, there have been at least 116 cases in Albemarle County, 66 in Charlottesville, 14 in Greene County, and 10 in Nelson County. In the part of West Virginia we cover, three case have been five confirmed cases in Pendleton County, 11 cases in Hardy County, and three cases in Grant County. Recovery 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. 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 May 7, at least 2,997 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 1,625. 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. 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. In recent days, that has steadily creeped closer to 10 a.m. 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.

Where are all the confirmed cases in our region?

According to the Virginia Department of Health's May 7 breakdown, 122,119 people in Virginia had been tested for the virus, with 21,570 positive results. The number of total tests has increased significantly over the last week, with around 3,000 to 5,000 tests a day, beginning to meet Gov. Northam's guidelines for the state to reach Phase 1 of reopening by May 15. 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, and demographic breakdowns, as well as breakdowns by health district. Here's a breakdown of cases for our region as of 9 a.m. on May 7. You can find the breakdown for the entire state in the chart below our list. Central Shenandoah • Augusta County - 55 • Buena Vista - 8 • Harrisonburg - 574 (+22 from Thursday) • Highland County - 2 • Lexington - 5 • Rockbridge County - 8 • Rockingham County - 320 (+10 from Thursday) • Staunton - 15 (+1 from Thursday) • Waynesboro - 20 Outbreaks: 11, with 2 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a healthcare setting, 6 in congregate settings, 1 in a correctional facility, and 1 in an educational setting Lord Fairfax • Clarke County - 16 • Frederick County - 150 (+3 from Thursday) • Page County - 123 (+1 from Thursday) • Shenandoah County - 236 (+23 from Thursday) • Warren County - 78 (+3 from Thursday) • Winchester - 61 Outbreaks: 13, with 45in long-term care facilities, 3 in healthcare settings, and 5 in congregate settings Thomas Jefferson • Albemarle County - 116 (+4 from Thursday) • Charlottesville - 66 (+1 from Thursday) • Fluvanna County - 78 • Greene County - 14 (+1 from Thursday) • Louisa County - 53 (+2 from Thursday) • Nelson County - 10 (+1 from Thursday) Outbreaks: 4, with 3 in long-term care facilities and 1 in a correctional facility Rappahannock Rapidan • Culpeper County - 239 (+22 from Thursday) • Fauquier County - 153 (+4 from Thursday) • Madison County - 20 (+2 from Thursday) • Orange County - 43 • Rappahannock - 7 Outbreaks: 3, with 1 in a healthcare setting and 2 in congregate settings

The statewide situation in Virginia

Virginia remains under a series of public health orders and executive orders designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. The timeline of those measures can be seen below. On Monday, May 4, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Executive Order 53, which closed many non-essential businesses across Virginia, would be extended until May 14. At that same briefing, the governor outlined his plans for Virginia's "Phase 1" of reopening, which he said he anticipates will begin on Friday, May 15. At that point, the businesses that had to close due to EO 53 will be able to reopen, though they'll operate with restrictions in place, including social distancing measures, safety measures like PPE for employees, and increases sanitation. On Wednesday, April 29, Gov. Northam announced the first public health order to end, letting elective procedures resume on May 1. That also effectively re-opened dentist's offices for regular appointments and veterinarian's offices. On April 24, the governor outlined a blueprint on how Virginia can enter phases of reopening, calling for the commonwealth to see a 14-day trend of declining daily case totals before the process begins. Executive Order 53, which closed many non-essential businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people, is set to last until at least May 8, after an extension announced by Northam in April. Executive Order 55, the 'Stay at Home' order signed by Northam on March 30, is set to run through at least June 10, as it has been since its signing. It instructs all Virginians to stay home except for essential needs. Virginia remains under a state of emergency until June 10 as well. Of the orders in place, Executive Order 53 is enforceable by law, so someone who hosts a gathering of more than 10 people can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. You can learn more about what police enforcement of Northam's executive orders looks like here. Virginia's local elections in May and the primaries in June have each been postponed by two weeks as well.

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. For the latest factual information on COVID-19, you're encouraged to check both the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC.