'You need to stay home:' Gov. Northam addresses Virginia's COVID-19 situation
As of Friday, March 27, the Virginia Department of Health had confirmed 604 positive or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth. That's a jump of nearly 150 from Thursday's count of 460 cases, which was up from 391 on Wednesday, 290 on Tuesday, and 254 on Monday.
The climb in cases across Virginia has been due to both an increase in spread of the coronavirus, as well as an increase in testing availability at many hospitals and medical centers, according to Virginia's state epidemiologist.
now also has breakdowns of total COVID-19 patients by age group, sex, and race, as well as a graph showing cases by the date the illnesses began, in addition to the general case numbers.
Virginia remains under a state of emergency that went into effect earlier this month. On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam signed
and required many businesses classified as "non-essential" to close.
On Wednesday, Gov. Northam signed a new public health order directing all hospitals across Virginia to postpone elective surgeries in order to preserve critical equipment like ventilators and personal protective gear.
Gov. Northam has been holding briefings to address Virginians on how the state government is responding to COVID-19 and what new measures are being put into place to stop the spread of the virus, which, so far, has resulted in at least 13 deaths and 59 hospitalizations across Virginia.
For the foreseeable future, those briefings are being held at 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You can watch them live on WHSV on your TV or through WHSV's livestream at
or on the WHSV News app. That livestream can also be watched through our Roku and Amazon Fire apps.
In Friday's briefing, no new executive orders or public health orders were announced. The briefing more generally covered a lot of the issues facing Virginians as the outbreak continues.
The latest updates from Friday's briefing can be found broken down below:
Gov. Northam started out the Friday briefing by repeatedly emphasizing the importance of social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"I cannot emphasize this enough," Northam said. "Virginians, you need to stay at home. If you do not have to leave your home, you should not leave your home."
When asked by a reporter why Virginia is not implementing a "stay at home" order like West Virginia or a "shelter in place" like some other states have issued, Gov. Northam said, "We're talking semantics here."
Northam said his message, repeatedly each day, has been to tell Virginians to stay at home, and that that's the same message that all states are giving right now.
However, currently, the governor's message to stay at home is not enforceable by law like the orders that have been issued in other states.
He said the state will continue to tell people to stay at home as they have been doing, and that their stance is that that is what's best for Virginians.
When asked about any additional restrictions or shutdowns being planned, Northam said the state government is "looking at this as a very dynamic situation" and will consider additional plans as needed.
Northam mentioned that any Virginians who need information on how to reach out to the state's social safety net systems due to the financial impact of COVID-19 can dial 211 to reach Virginia's 24-hour hotline.
Dr. Lillian Peake, the Virginia state epidemiologist, has said that the Virginia Department of Health is seeing more confirmed tests from private labs than from the state lab at this point.
However, Gov. Northam said in Friday's briefing that one major problem they have seen is that some private labs have a turnaround of 5-7 days because test processing may be handled at out-of-state facilities.
"We know that there are thousands of tests out there" that have unreported results yet, Virginia's public health secretary added.
The governor said Virginia's state lab is working to get their turnaround down to 1-2 days, and he pointed to UVA Health and VCU Medical Center as great examples
that they would be beginning to offer testing to additional hospitals across Virginia, including Augusta Health.
Northam said the biggest problem facing Virginia and states across the country is that there are not enough testing materials available, partially due to supply chain disruptions in Asia and other international markets that normally provide medical supplies.
The state government, along with Maryland and Washington, D.C. have asked the Trump administration to establish a federal testing site in the northern Virginia area, where Virginia has seen some of its highest concentrations of cases and where many federal workers live as well.
Virginia's public health secretary said the positive test rate for COVID-19 is only around 7-8 percent, but all the patients being tested have to self-isolate, so testing turnaround time is key to understand where the disease is in Virginia and how to prevent it.
He and the governor tied bringing that time down not only to testing supplies themselves, but to the lack of availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Gov. Northam and state health officials emphasized that there are currently not enough protective materials for doctors, nurses, and all medical providers testing for and treating COVID-19.
Northam said the reality is that state governments are bidding against each other, bidding against the federal government, and even having to bid against health systems to try to get increased supplies of protective gear from the distributors that have it.
The governor said he encouraged President Trump to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up U.S. production of PPE to help Virginia and all other states in the country.
He also thanked private corporations like Home Depot and Dominion Energy for donating tens of thousands of PPE supplies to medical providers.
If you have supplies that can be donated, Northam said you can use
to learn how to donate them.
The state government is also working with Virginia-based manufacturers to make more equipment available throughout Virginia.
According to state finance leaders, the CARES Act that was passed by the House of Representatives just a few minutes before Northam's press conference began on Friday will provide at least $1.8 million directly to Virginia's COVID-19 response.
Earlier this week, when many non-essential businesses were shut down across Virginia and the state government provided a list of essential business categories, it was
Brian Moran, the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, said that under the state operations plan, social distancing can be easily achieved at ABC stores, where a 10-patron limit is being enforced for the amount of people in ABC stores at any given time.
Gov. Northam said that after his call for more people who are able and willing to volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps at
earlier this week, the corps received applications for more than 650 volunteers in just two days.
That followed more than 1,500 people volunteering in the previous month.
Northam said he is "so proud of Virginians" for stepping up to volunteer.
The state is asking for volunteers with medical experience, as well as medical students or student nurses.
Northam said the Virginia National Guard is being used to help move supplies across the state and help with other emergency logistics where needed right now.
Gov. Northam added that President Trump will be visiting Norfolk this coming weekend to oversee the launch of the USNS Comfort, the world's largest hospital ship, which will embark for New York to help in the state hardest hit by the coronavirus.
In our area, as of March 27, there were 5 confirmed cases in Harrisonburg, 4 cases in Rockingham County, 3 cases in Shenandoah County, 4 cases in Frederick County, and 1 case in Rockbridge County. Just to the east, there have been at least 8 cases in Albemarle County, 11 in Charlottesville, and 1 in Nelson County.
At this time, no cases have been confirmed in Augusta County, Page County, Staunton, or Waynesboro. As of March 26, Augusta Health
to increase testing capacity for the Augusta County area.
WHSV spoke with Augusta Health on Thursday afternoon, and their staff confirmed that they still had zero positive tests at that point.
In West Virginia, where there have been 76 total positive cases, no cases have been confirmed yet in Grant, Hardy, or Pendleton counties.
Local health districts are no longer sending individual updates for every new case, as they expect, realistically, that numbers will keep rising until we hit the peak of cases, which epidemiologists say is likely weeks away at least.
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.
According to Dr. Laura Kornegay, with the Central Shenandoah Health District, five positive or presumptive positive cases of the novel coronavirus had been confirmed in the city of Harrisonburg by Thursday afternoon.
Cases in Rockingham County rose to four by Friday morning.
Dr. Kornegay told WHSV earlier this week, while the official case count for Harrisonburg remained at three, that more tests were being processed and the number was expected to rise in the coming days.
In the central Shenandoah area, so far, there have been confirmed cases in
Dept. of Health investigators have been looking into each of the confirmed cases so far to determine who the patients may have been in contact with to try and determine where the virus was contracted and to tell anyone who was in close contact with the patients to self-quarantine.
The initial case in Harrisonburg was for a patient in their 60s. One of the first Rockingham County cases was for a patient in their 30s or 40s.
The second Rockingham County case was for a JMU student who traveled to Spain over her spring break before returning home early as travel restrictions went into effect. She
, 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.
Dr. Colin Greene, the district director for Lord Fairfax Health District, told WHSV on Thursday that their district had confirmed three cases in Shenandoah County, but that they were processing more possible positive tests in the area that day, which would likely lead to an increase in numbers for a few localities in the district by Friday.
On Friday, Dr. Greene said the case total in Shenandoah County had held steady at three and Page County still had no positive tests. However, elsewhere in the district, there were two new cases in Frederick County, raising their total to four, and two cases in Warren County.
Greene said he expects an increase in cases in the coming days, like each district.
Their first positive case,
, did not appear on
until Wednesday, so there is sometimes a lengthier lag in their district numbers appearing on the state website than others.
Dr. Greene told WHSV that their office had sent about 20 more tests off to Virginia's state lab for processing by Thursday, and that the hospital in Winchester has carried out even more tests through independent commercial labs. Results on those are pending.
In response to a variety of rumors and messages about a possible case at Bowman Andros Products, LLC, Dr. Greene said he is unaware of any cases confirmed there.
He added that the CDC has found that the coronavirus cannot be transferred through food.
The Virginia Department of Health has been updating its
at noon each day with the new total and a breakdown of the cases by locality. On Friday, the Virginia Department of Health announced that numbers would begin being updated at 9 a.m. each day from here on, thanks to a new way in which they've streamlined their system.
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.
According to the department's March 27 breakdown, 7,337 people in Virginia had been tested for the virus, with 604 positive results. That testing number was an increase of more than 1,000 from the previous day.
There have been a total of 83 hospitalizations and
due to COVID-19.
Their breakdown and location map, available to the public
, has a graph showing the number of illnesses in the state by the date the illnesses themselves began, as well as breakdowns by demographics.
For instance, only 7 of Virginia's confirmed cases have been in children 9 and under, and only 9 cases in children 10-19.
Here's the full breakdown of cases as of 10 a.m. on March 27, starting with our most local cases and then broken down by health districts across the state:
• Harrisonburg - 5
• Rockbridge County - 1
• Rockingham County - 4
• Frederick County - 4
• Shenandoah County - 3
• Warren County - 2
• Albemarle County - 8
• Charlottesville - 11
• Fluvanna County - 3
• Greene County - 1
• Louisa County - 5
• Nelson County - 1
• Culpeper County - 2
• Fauquier County - 4
• Madison County - 2
• Orange County - 1
• Alexandria City - 18
• Botetourt County - 1
• Roanoke County - 1
• Arlington County - 63
• Amherst County - 1
• Bedford County - 2
• Lynchburg - 2
• Chesapeake City - 5
• Chesterfield County - 12
• Charles City County - 1
• Goochland County - 3
• Hanover County - 2
• Prince George County - 2
• Accomack County - 2
• Northampton - 1
• Fairfax County - 124
• Hampton City - 5
• Henrico County - 28
• Lee County - 2
• Loudoun County - 43
• Bristol - 1
• Galax - 1
• Washington County - 1
• Radford City - 1
• Norfolk - 8
• James City County - 55
• Newport News - 12
• Poquoson - 1
• Williamsburg - 5
• York County - 9
• Amelia County - 1
• Nottoway - 1
• Prince Edward County - 2
• Danville - 4
• Pittsylvania County - 1
• Portsmouth - 3
• Manassas City - 3
• Prince William County - 44
• Fredericksburg - 1
• King Georrge County - 1
• Spotsylvania County - 3
• Stafford County - 11
• Richmond - 17
• Halifax County - 1
• Mecklenburg County - 4
• Gloucester County - 3
• Matthews - 1
• Virginia Beach - 29
• Franklin County - 1
• Isle of Wight County - 2
• Southampton - 1
• Suffolk County - 1
When asked about President Donald Trump's recent statements suggesting that he would like to see the country reopen for business by Easter, Gov. Northam said in his Tuesday briefing he is relying on the science and data to do what's in the best interest of Virginians, and they tell us that we'll be dealing with "months, not weeks."
"We all want our lives to return to normal," Northam said. "It would be nice to say that this will be behind us in 2 to 3 weeks, but that's not what the data tells us."
"To have economic recovery, we must get through this health crisis first," Northam continued.
Northam repeatedly reiterated that we are in the middle of a crisis that we haven't seen the worst of yet. Using the CDC's data representation of a curve, indicating growing COVID-19 cases before they decline, Northam said that we're not close to hitting the peak of the curve yet, but he is working to flatten it among Virginians as much as possible through the orders and restrictions that have been put into place.
Northam said the coronavirus has created "a new normal" that Virginians are working to adapt to for the foreseeable future to lessen the virus' impacts.
Gov. Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA directed all Virginia hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries and procedures in order to help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment.
The direction came in
The order does not apply to any procedure if the delay would cause harm to a patient and does not apply to outpatient visits in hospital-based clinics, family planning services, or emergency needs.
“Hospitals and medical facilities in Virginia and around the country are in desperate need of additional masks, gowns, gloves, and other personal protective equipment,” said Governor Northam. “While we work to increase our supply, it makes sense to decrease the demand on that equipment where we can. Postponing elective surgeries allows us to divert more PPE to the medical staff who are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak so we can better protect the men and men on the front lines of this public health emergency, fighting to keep us all safe.”
Licensed inpatient and outpatient surgical hospitals, free-standing endoscopy centers, physicians’ offices, and dental, orthodontic, and endodontic offices may perform any procedure or surgery that if delayed or canceled would result in the patient’s condition worsening.
Outpatient surgical hospitals are encouraged to work with local inpatient hospitals to assist with surge capacity needs.
Gov. Northam announced that as of this Friday morning, all Virginia state parks will be day-use only, meaning that all cabins, campgrounds, and bath houses at state parks will be effectively closed.
That order will last until at least April 30.
According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, all reservations for stays at state parks will be canceled and reservation holders will receive automatic refunds.
The parks themselves will remain open as "an essential good to the general public for day-use activities such as hiking, biking, wildlife viewing and exercise."
Anyone using the parks in those ways is asked to keep the following in mind:
• Stay close to home.
• Guests should bring their own soap and hand sanitizer to use during day-use visits.
• Groups and gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited and these restrictions will enforced by park staff.
• Guests should keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others at all times. While on trails, alert others of your presence and step aside to let others pass at a safe distance.
• Parking fees remain in place. Guests should be prepared to self-pay with cash or check at the contact station.
In Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's 2 p.m. press conference on March 23, he announced that all K-12 public schools across the commonwealth would be ordered to remain closed at least through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.
Previously, Northam had
and said that the commonwealth would reevaluate as that date got closer.
By Monday afternoon, bordering states to Virginia, including North Carolina and West Virginia, had already taken similar measures to close schools.
“This is an unprecedented situation, and it requires unprecedented actions to protect public health and save lives,” said Governor Northam.
According to Northam and state officials, the Virginia Department of Education will issue guidance to help individual school districts execute plans to carry on instruction for students while ensuring that everyone is served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status, or special needs.
Officials say that will include options for instruction through summer programming, integrating instruction into coursework next year, and allowing students to make up content.
This includes options for additional instruction through summer programming, integrating instruction into coursework next year, and allowing students to make up content.
Individual school districts will determine next steps as to how to proceed with graduation for seniors.
The state has already applied to the Department of Education
School districts across our area have stepped up in recent weeks to continue providing meals to students while they're at home. You can find
Northam also announced on Monday that he would be signing
, which would take effect at the end of Tuesday (11:59 p.m. on March 24) ordering some non-essential services, including all recreation and entertainment services, to close.
The order covers three categories of businesses:
1. Recreational and entertainment businesses, like bowling alleys and theaters, which must close their doors by midnight on Tuesday.
2. Non-essential retail stores, which are allowed to remain open so long as they can limit patrons to 10 at most, maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet, and follow CDC guidelines on sanitation.
3. Restaurants and food service establishments, which can remain open for carry-out, curbside pickup, or delivery, but not in-house dining.
Hair salons, barbers, massage therapists and similar non-essential services who can't feasibly carry out social distancing must close.
Dining and on-site alcohol establishments are allowed to keep operating through delivery and takeout services, but must close on-site dining to the public. That includes restaurants, food courts, farmers markets, breweries, distilleries, vineyards, and tasting rooms.
Grocery stores, health services, businesses in supply chains, and other essential businesses will be able to remain open no matter what. Virginia ABC stores are also considered an essential service, Northam clarified in response to a reporter's question.
The construction industry and construction supply stores are also considered essential services.
Here's a comprehensive list of businesses considered essential that may remain open during normal hours:
• Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
• Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
• Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
• Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities;
• Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
• Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
• Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
• Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
• Retail located within healthcare facilities;
• Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
• Pet stores and feed stores;
• Printing and office supply stores; and
• Laundromats and dry cleaners.
All essential businesses must still adhere to social distancing as much as possible and implement enhanced sanitation practices.
According to a press release issued by Northam's office following the briefing, the following list of businesses must close to the public as off 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday:
• Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
• Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities;
• Beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
• Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities;
• Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.
Professional businesses not in any of the above lists must utilize telework as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such businesses must adhere to social distancing and other CDC guidelines.
Businesses violating the governor's order can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
"I know the next several weeks will be difficult," Northam said. "These restrictions on non-essential businesses will create hardships on the businesses and employees affected. But they are necessary, and we do not undertake them lightly. I am calling on Virginians to sacrifice now, so that we can get through this together.”
The order will remain in effect for at least 30 days in Virginia.
State leaders said that the Virginia Employment Commission received more than 40,000 applications for unemployment from March 16-23.
They reiterated that the state's 1-week waiting period to receive benefits has been waived, as well as the regular work search requirement while so many employers remain closed due to the coronavirus.
You can find more information on unemployment claims at
also outlines policies for workers that have been temporarily laid off or discharged during the public health crisis.
Northam also touched on the stress and anxiety that many people are feeling due to the spread of the virus and encouraged people to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK if they are feeling thoughts of suicide. He noted that the Disaster Stress Hotline is also available to provide counseling and support for people during an emergency like this one at 1-800-985-5990.
At this point, state health officials have confirmed that there is ongoing "community spread" of COVID-19 between Virginians, especially in distinct "clusters" of cases seen in parts of northern and eastern Virginia where the virus has been the most prevalent.
Those clusters have been detected in the northern, central, and Peninsula regions of the state.
Everyone living in those areas is asked to stay home, practice social distancing, and follow all CDC and VDH guidelines for prevention of the virus.
State leaders clarified in their March 19 conference that Medicaid coverage covers testing and treatment for patients with COVID-19.
Gov. Northam directed the Dept. of Social Services to modify Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy program, which is currently caring for 25,000 children, to increase support and flexibility for enrolled families and providers. These modifications include:
• Expanding eligibility for school-aged children currently designated for part-day care to full-day care.
• Increasing the number of paid absences from 36 to 76 days for both level 1 and level 2 providers.
• Automatically extending eligibility for families due for eligibility redetermination in the near future by 2 months and temporarily suspending the requirement for face-to-face interviews.
Northam announced on March 19 that Virginia's application to the Small Business Administration for businesses to apply to the SBA for federal disaster loans as a result of COVID-19 has been approved.
The SBA’s Disaster Loan program is designed to help small businesses and nonprofits meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot otherwise be met as a direct result of COVID-19.
To learn more about the program, the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center has
of what to know about the program. You can also find more directly through the SBA at
State officials said the sales taxes owed by Virginia businesses on Friday, March 20, could be extended to April for some businesses that apply to the state. The process requires applying, however.
Virginia Tax will consider requests from sales tax dealers for an extension of the due date for filing and payment of the February 2020 sales tax return due March 20, 2020. If the request is granted, Virginia Tax will allow filing and payment of such return on April 20, 2020, with a waiver of any penalties that would have applied. However, interest will accrue even if an extension is granted.
Dealers can submit a request for extension by using
State leadership is also extending the due date for Virginia individual and corporation tax payments to June 1. Tax returns will still be due on May 1 across Virginia, but the date for Virginians to pay any taxes owed will be extended.
Gov. Northam announced on March 19 that they would be asking Virginia State Police to suspend enforcement of vehicle inspections for the next 60 days.
Northam encouraged everyone in his March 18 address to donate blood for the American Red Cross, which
that they're seeing an extreme shortage due to thousands of canceled blood drives.
The governor said he would be donating blood Wednesday afternoon and emphasized that there's no evidence the virus can be transmitted through blood. Officials encouraged people to make an appointment at their local blood centers.
In the March 18 briefing, the governor also said the Virginia Dept. of Elections is encouraging people to vote absentee in any upcoming May elections, but is not planning at this time to postpone any elections.
The governor announced that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would be closing all offices (about 70 across Virginia) to the public from March 18 to April 2, at least.
People who have licenses or registrations expiring by May 15 will be granted 60-day extensions.
Northam also encouraged Virginians to take care of DMV tasks online, at
, if possible.
The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued
directing utilities it regulates, such as electric, natural gas, and water companies in Virginia, to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for any customer, residential and business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Some, like the SVEC, have also
The Supreme Court of Virginia
. From Monday, March 16 through Monday, April 6, non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all district and circuit courts are suspended absent a specific exemption.
This includes a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of COVID-19.
All non-exempted court deadlines are tolled and extended for a period of 21 days.
On March 12, Governor Ralph Northam
in response to COVID-19, with many local officials doing the same in the following days.
On March 13, he
Locally, major events have been postponed or canceled due to the health risks surrounding COVID-19 and the governor's limit on gatherings of 10 or more. Check our
for the latest cancellations and postponements.
All of the cancellations, postponements, and closures, locally and nationwide, are happening in hopes of “flattening the curve” of the virus.
While letting the virus spread rapidly could shorten the duration of the pandemic, it could put a lot of strain on hospitals, putting them over capacity. The goal is to keep the apex curve below hospital capacity.
People are rushing to stores to buy cleaning supplies or other items in the event of a quarantine.
To help your shopping, the Environmental Protection Agency has expanded its list of disinfectants that have qualified for use against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
, including 40 new products that went through the agency’s expedited review process.
But in the end, hand washing and social distancing is your best bet!
Currently, there are two main reasons someone would be tested for the coronavirus: having symptoms or exposure to an infected person. In our area, requirements for testing include both symptoms and either travel to an affected area or exposure to someone with a confirmed case.
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.
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.
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.
For the latest factual information on COVID-19, you're encouraged to check both the