As of Thursday, September 24, Virginia has had 143,492 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
That total reflects a 902 case increase since Wednesday, out of 32,727 tests newly added to the system, which comes out to 2.8% of the newest tests coming back positive. 24 additional deaths were reported on Thursday, leaving the death toll at 3,113. According to the Virginia Department of Health, a backlog of death data is expected to be added from September 15 through September 25.
For a comprehensive summary of COVID-19 cases and testing in Virginia, you can visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website and view their COVID-19 dashboard.
On Tuesday, September 15, Gov. Northam held a COVID-19 briefing and discussed the 2020 election. Northam expects a high number of absentee voters this year; as of Sept. 15, the department of elections has received 790,000 absentee ballots by mail. Absentee ballots will begin to be sent out to voters on Friday, Sept. 18. Unlike past election years, you do not need to provide a reason to receive an absentee ballot. You can call or visit the website of your general registrar for your county or city to request an absentee ballot, or go online to vote.elections.virginia.gov.
On Tuesday, September 1, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. made the decision to move classes online until at least Oct. 5. Also on Tuesday, Gov. Northam held a COVID-19 briefing to discuss COVID-19 numbers in the state and urged residents to fill out the 2020 Census. Virginia will not make any new COVID-19-related decisions before the Labor Day weekend.
The Virginia DMV announced on September 1 that credentials that would originally expire in August, September and October would now have an additional 60 days to renew. November expiration dates have been extended through the end of November.
On Tuesday, July 28, Gov. Northam held a live COVID-19 briefing on his social media platforms to discuss the coronavirus in Virginia. According to Northam, cases remain stable in 4 out of 5 Virginia regions. Hampton Roads, however, continues to have a steady rise in cases, where more people are gathering in crowds and not maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Northam said that some restaurants have had their licenses revoked for violating COVID-19 guidelines since his July 14 briefing as well.
For the Hampton Roads area, an executive order was placed on Friday, July 21. The order states restaurants must close by midnight and indoor dining is only allowed at 50% capacity. There are no alcohol sales permitted after 10 p.m., and private gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited. The executive order will last for at least two to three weeks until numbers begin going down.
On Tuesday, July 14, Gov. Northam held a COVID-19 briefing on his Facebook page urging the commonwealth to keep practicing social distancing and to follow the mask mandate. Gov. Northam said that the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia’s ABC teams will begin to conduct random visits to businesses and restaurants throughout the state to ensure that these organizations are following the latest COVID-19 guidelines. Licenses for these businesses can be revoked if they are not following the guidelines.
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.
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 3,745 hospital beds available. Currently, no Virginia hospitals are reporting any supply problems, and no licensed nursing facilities are reporting PPE supply problems such as N95 masks, surgical masks and isolation gowns.
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 September 24
By September 24, the Virginia Department of Health had received reports of 136,448 confirmed cases and 7,044 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 1,952,965 PCR tests and 145,355 antibody tests (The Dept. of Health announced in May that they would break testing data down by diagnostic and antibody tests.)
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 6.9% 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, 10,769 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and at least 3,113 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?
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 10:00 a.m. September 24. 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 Health District: 5,218 total cases
• Augusta County - 474 (+4 from Wednesday)
• Bath County - 7 (+1 from Wednesday)
• Buena Vista - 80
• Harrisonburg - 2,564 (+23 from Wednesday)
• Highland County - 6
• Lexington - 71 (+12 from Wednesday)
• Rockbridge County - 106
• Rockingham County - 1,403 (+13 from Wednesday)
• Staunton - 250 (+4 from Wednesday)
• Waynesboro - 257
Outbreaks: 34, with 9 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a healthcare setting, 19 in congregate settings, 1 in a correctional facility, and 4 in an educational setting | 2,211 cases associated with outbreaks
Total tests: 55,986
Local percent positivity: 9.3%
Lord Fairfax Health District: 3,060 total cases
• Clarke County - 93
• Frederick County - 865 (+5 from Wednesday)
• Page County - 389
• Shenandoah County - 804 (+3 from Wednesday)
• Warren County - 415
• Winchester - 494 (+4 from Wednesday)
Outbreaks: 39, with 14 in long-term care facilities, 8 in healthcare settings, 14 in congregate settings, and 2 in a correctional facility and 1 in an educational setting | 928 cases associated with outbreaks
Total tests: 55,806
Local percent positivity: 5.5%
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 September 24, at least 17,099 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 982.
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
Here at WHSV, we cover Grant County, Hardy County and Pendleton County. The below information is the most recent data from each counties’ health department.
Hardy County: 87 total COVID-19 cases.
Pendleton County: 52 total COVID-19 cases.
Grant County: 156 total COVID-19 cases.
Timing of VDH data
Two Harrisonburg High School staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Harrisonburg High School will be closed on Friday, Sept. 25 as contact tracing occurs.
All students who attend in-person learning at Harrisonburg High School will be moved to virtual learning for Friday. The school will provide updates as needed.
Harrisonburg Superintendent Dr. Richards has also confirmed that a student from Skyline Middle School has tested positive for COVID-19. The student had been meeting for in-person classes.
At this time, the health department has not suggested closing the middle school.
Thursday evening, dozens of students at James Madison University gathered in front of Wilson Hall to protest and demand action for Breonna Taylor.
Summer Khaswan, the organizer of the protest, said she decided to take action after none of the police officers involved in the raid that killed Breonna Taylor were charged with her death.
“She was an innocent woman who was sleeping in her own home and the fact that a wall got justice before she did was just absolutely ridiculous,” Khaswan said.
Students were spaced out around JMU’s quad with a megaphone in the middle. Students took their turns listening and expressing their thoughts on Wednesday’s decision from Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s Attorney General.
At one point, students took a 195 second moment of silence representing the 195 days since Taylor was killed. Students said those days will continue and they feel there has still been no justice.
“There was no justice served there was no closure given and Breonna deserves better,” Khaswan said.
Other points students got across during the protest were the need to vote in the upcoming election and talking to more people about racial injustice.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - University of Virginia researchers say that a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before the end of the year, but how many people actually get the shot is the next great hurdle in defeating the virus.
As the race for a vaccine continues nationwide, new polling suggests that even if one is approved by the FDA at no cost, it won’t be universally embraced.
A poll of Virginians conducted by the Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University this month showed that 40% of Virginians would not get the shot if it was ready right now and 66% say they do not support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The VCU poll is almost in line with a Gallup poll showing 35% of the country feels the same way.
Researchers at UVA say that could threaten the vaccine’s ultimate effectiveness.
“You probably need more than 60 plus percent of people to get it to blunt the course of the pandemic,” Dr. Steven Zeichner explained.
Dr. Zeichner is working on a vaccine project at UVA designed to be cost effective to increase access in poor countries.
Dr. Bill Petri, another researcher at UVA, is working on a separate vaccine project. That trial is working to use antibodies to target the specific spike glycoprotein in COVID-19, and prevent it from entering healthy cells and replicating.
“My wife asked me, ‘Would I be one of the first ones to take the vaccine?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’d love to, to be one of the first in Charlottesville to be vaccinated’,” Dr. Bill Petri added. “It’s hugely important because we’re going to protect not only ourselves, but then we’re going to reduce the risk of transmission to others.”
One of the biggest concerns for Virginians is the safety of a potential vaccine, the development of which has been dramatically sped up to meet the public health crisis. However, both Zeichner and Petri agree from what they’ve seen first-hand working on vaccines that safety is a priority.
“The standards, I think, are now, they’re being articulated a little more regularly, rigorously than they had been in the past,” Zeichner said.
Petri pointed to the recent temporary shutdown of the Oxford University / AstraZeneca trial after a participant fell ill as a good example of precautions in place and being followed.
“One person out of 40,000 in a study is enough for the FDA to say, ‘Wait, let’s make sure like that this is safe before we go forward,’” Petri said. “I would hope that people would find that reassuring, that safety is not going to be compromised.”
A key piece of advice from both doctors: get your flu shot, especially this year. Since both coronavirus and the flu have similar symptoms, protecting yourself against the latter could help in being diagnosed if you do catch coronavirus.
Less people getting the flu would also alleviate the added strain flu season puts on hospitals annually.
Wesley Dunlap, a former teacher at Turner Ashby High School, turned himself in to authorities on three charges of Indecent Liberties with a juvenile in a supervisory capacity on Monday, according to Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson of Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office.
Hutcheson says that Dunlap, a 37-year-old male of Mt. Crawford, was released on Tuesday on a $3,000 secured bond.
The offenses occurred during the 2018-2019 school year. The victim was a former student.
Rockingham County Public Schools issued a press release Thursday afternoon, saying, “We are not aware of the details but have full confidence in the process.” The school system said they can not comment further at this time.
University of Virginia researchers say that a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before the end of the year, but how many people actually get the shot is the next great hurdle in defeating the virus.