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Health dept. confirms 4 COVID-19 cases in the Charlottesville area

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Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 11:14 AM EDT
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Four positive cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus have now been confirmed in the Charlottesville area.

The Thomas Jefferson Health District of the Virginia Department of Health issued an announcement Thursday morning saying that they've confirmed two additional cases in Charlottesville, on top of the one

, and one new case in Albemarle County

The first confirmed case in Charlottesville was for a University of Virginia (UVA) employee.

On Wednesday, UVA

for COVID-19, but that employee was located at the UVA Biocomplexity Institute in Arlington – not in Charlotesville.

At this point, health department officials have not released details on the three new cases in the Charlottesville area, like the age of the patients or where they may have contracted the virus.

Public health workers are investigating each case to determine who has been in close contact with the patients as they each remain isolated. Contacts will be asked to stay home away from others for 14 days.

“As we continue to see new cases of COVID-19 in our community and throughout the Commonwealth, it is critical that people follow the public health guidelines on social distancing and good hygiene,” said Dr. Bonds, TJHD Health Director. “Social distancing is one of the most effective strategies in lessening the impact of this pandemic.” People should avoid social gatherings of more than 10 individuals. If you are 65 years or older, or if you have a serious chronic medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, immune compromise), you should seriously consider staying at home. “We all have a responsibility and duty to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our community from this novel coronavirus.”

Moving forward, the Thomas Jefferson Health District says they will not be sending out individual announcements for new cases in the district, because they anticipate there will be more. They suggest people visit

for the latest case totals.

Their district has a hotline for general information about coronavirus response right now: 434-972-6261.

The situation across Virginia

The Virginia Department of Health announced on Thursday that there are 94 confirmed COVID-18 cases across Virginia, though those numbers did not include the new cases confirmed by the Thomas Jefferson Health District.

Only one case has been confirmed in the Shenandoah Valley: last week, a Harrisonburg patient tested positive for the virus, and is now recovering at home. That patient was treated at Sentara RMH.

Sentara RMH tells WHSV they have received no positive test results for the novel coronavirus since that time.

Augusta Health tells us they've had zero confirmed cases of the virus altogether.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is scheduled to provide his daily briefing on the state response to the virus at 3 p.m. Thursday. The briefings are normally scheduled for 11 a.m., but Thursday's was pushed back because President Trump had one scheduled for 11 a.m.

Where are the cases?

According to the Virginia Department of Health's newest breakdown, 1,923 people in Virginia have been tested for the virus, with 94 positive results. Out of those cases, 19 people have required hospitalization, and there have been two deaths.

Their breakdown and location map, available to the public

, now has updated information, including 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.

The sole case confirmed in the Shenandoah Valley, for a Harrisonburg patient, has an unknown source of transmission. Health officials have been unable to identify any travel through which the patient could have been exposed or any contact with anyone else that tested positive for the virus.

Here's the full breakdown of cases as of noon on March 19:

• Albemarle County - 1

• Alexandria City - 4

• Arlington County - 17

• Charles City County - 1

• Charlottesville City - 3

• Chesterfield County - 6

• Fairfax County - 16

• Goochland County - 1

• Hanover County - 1

• Harrisonburg City - 1

• Henrico County - 3

• James City County - 14

• Loudoun County - 5

• Prince Edward County - 1

• Prince William County - 11

• Richmond City - 3

• Spotsylvania County - 1

• Stafford County - 2

• Virginia Beach City - 4

• Williamsburg City - 1

• York County - 1

You can find the breakdown and map on the VDH coronavirus website

.

The status of testing in Virginia

According to state health officials on Wednesday, the state had tests left for about 300 people, but they were expecting more to arrive by Thursday.

In the eastern part of the state, where most cases have been identified, Sentara hospitals had drive-thru screening sites operating for two days, but

due to a lack of supply of tests. Two of the three hospitals reopened their drive-thru sites on Thursday.

Virginia health officials acknowledged reports that in addition to a lack of supply of tests themselves, hospitals are seeing shortages in various forms of equipment needed to perform and analyze the tests.

Blood donations

In his Wednesday briefing, Gov. Ralph Northam everyone 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.

Elections

In Wednesday's 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.

Small business loans

In terms of effects on businesses, the governor said Virginia would be submitting an application to the Small Business Administration immediately to allow more small businesses across the state to be eligible for federal loans to seek assistance due to temporary closures.

Deploying the National Guard?

When asked if deploying the National Guard is in the works, Gov. Northam said it's an option that's available, and one that's been used in many emergencies in the past, but at this time, they will not be deployed. If it does happen, he said it would be to provide more capacity and staff at hospitals.

Schools

Northam acknowledged that several schools and individual school districts have already made decisions to extend their closures to a month or longer. However, at this time, the governor is not extending the

, which currently runs until March 27.

Previous updates

On Tuesday, Northam

in response to the coronavirus.

Northam also urged all Virginians on Tuesday to comply with new CDC guidelines against gatherings of more than 10 people and for people over the age of 65 to self-quarantine until further notice.

Later in the day, Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA issued public health emergency order making the prohibition on more than 10 patrons enforceable by police.

“I hope that everyone will have the common sense to stay home tonight and in the days ahead,” said Governor Northam. “This order will ensure that state and local officials have the tools they need to keep people safe."

As of Tuesday, 67 patients had tested "presumptive positive" or positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Virginia and 48 cases remained pending.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, doctors were also investigating the possibility of seeing "community spread" in one part of eastern portion of the state and investigating the first Virginia case inside a senior living center, which took place in Richmond.

The Virginia Department of Health updates its total number of cases once per day, around noon, including both cases that have tested positive and been confirmed on a federal level by the CDC and cases that have tested positive on a state level and are still awaiting CDC confirmation.

A total of 1,028 patients had been tested for the virus in Virginia as of the time the department's numbers were updated Tuesday, which was more than double the number of tests that had been performed as of the day before.

Two patients

in Virginia, each in the Peninsula District in the eastern part of the state.

Below is a rundown of what to know about the virus and its effects on daily life in Virginia.

Changes for businesses

In his address on Tuesday, Gov. Northam said the state would be following the CDC's recommendation against gatherings of 10 people or more. As of right now, the commonwealth does not plan ban in-house restaurant operations outright, but are ordering them to abide by the "rule of 10" and are encouraging them to focus on delivery and takeout options, instead of in-house dining, to abide by that CDC recommendation.

Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA issued a public health emergency order prohibiting more than 10 patrons in restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters. The order gives local and state law enforcement the ability to enforce the 10-person limit.

According to a press release from the governor's office, the 10-person limit is for non-essential gatherings and does not include normal operations at essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores, or pharmacies.

When asked, Gov. Northam said he is not issuing a mandate for restaurants and bars to close at this point, unlike governors in some states, like West Virginia and New York, but is asking them to enforce the 10-person limit through whatever means works best for them, like focusing on delivery and takeout options.

All restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters are mandated to significantly reduce their capacity to 10 patrons, or close, the governor's office said in a statement following the press conference.

“Everyone must play a role to help flatten the curve and mitigate the spread of this virus, and that starts with social distancing,” said Governor Northam. “We know this will be a hardship for many businesses, and we are assisting workers affected by closures. Public health relies on every individual using common sense and making responsible decisions. We can and will get through this difficult time. But we must work together to do so.”

Support for workers

For employees in businesses across the state forced to close by the virus, Northam said all employees affected by COVID-19 can seek unemployment funds that have been freed up by state and federal states of emergency.

Northam is also waiving the one-week waiting period on unemployment benefits for people to be able to access the funds as soon as possible.

For individuals receiving unemployment insurance, Governor Northam is directing the Virginia Employment Commission to give affected workers special consideration on deadlines, mandatory re-employment appointments, and work search requirements.

outlines policies for workers that have been temporarily laid off or discharged during the public health crisis.

Support for employers

Regional workforce teams will be activated to support employers that slow or cease operations. Employers who do slow or cease operations will not be financially penalized for an increase in workers requesting unemployment benefits.

The Governor is authorizing rapid response funding, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, for employers eligible to remain open during this emergency. Funds may be used to clean facilities and support emergency needs.

The effect on seniors

Health department officials said they are thoroughly investigating the one case in the state that's been confirmed in a senior living facility, where spread of the virus is the biggest concern.

Northam also asked all Virginia residents over the age of 65 to self-quarantine.

Public health experts advise that individuals with underlying medical conditions and those aged 65 or older are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Northam encouraged neighbors and friends to stay in touch and regularly check in with high-risk individuals.

DMV closures

The governor announced that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will 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.

Utilities

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.

Many, like SVEC, have also

.

Courts

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.

What's the situation in Virginia?

Last Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam

in response to COVID-19, with many local officials doing the same in the following days.

On Friday, he

.

Over the weekend, the governor also

statewide, which resulted in many business and church closures, among other changes.

Officials expect the cases to continue to rise sharply, but Northam said the pandemic will not cripple the commonwealth.

Where are all the cases?

As of Tuesday around midday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 67 cases throughout the state. According to the VDH, 1,028 patients have been tested for the virus, with the vast majority of tests coming back negative.

The breakdown of where they are is this: 12 in Fairfax County, 12 in James City County, 1 in York County, 1 in Williamsburg, 13 in Arlington County, 5 in Loudoun County, 4 in Virginia Beach, 4 in Prince William County, 4 in Chesterfield County, 1 in Spotsylvania County, 1 in Stafford County, 2 in Henrico County, 2 in Alexandria, 1 in Prince Edward County (identified in Farmville where a Longwood student tested positive), 1 in Hanover County, 1 in Goochland County, 1 in Charlottesville, and 1 in Harrisonburg.

You can find the breakdown and map on the VDH coronavirus website

.

Have there been any deaths?

On Saturday, the Virginia Department of Health and the Peninsula Health District

who previously tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first death in the Commonwealth of Virginia due to coronavirus. On Monday,

, raising Virginia's total to 2 deaths.

As of Tuesday, the Peninsula Health District has 12 cases in the James City City area, 1 in York County, and 1 in Williamsburg. Officials are tracing their steps and have identified hundreds of people who came in contact with patients, reaching out to all of them.

What’s happening nationally?

President Donald Trump has

in order to free up more money and resources. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a deal with the Trump administration for an aid package from Congress that would provide free tests, sick pay for workers and bolster food programs.

The CDC is

or postponed over the next eight weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. That recommendation has led to significantly more business closures across the country.

Two emergency room doctors in the United States are in ‘critical condition’ with coronavirus. The ACEP said that a doctor in his 40s in the state of Washington and another doctor in his 70s in New Jersey have tested positive for coronavirus.

All schools closed

Schools across the state

.

All K-12 schools will be closed from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27, at a minimum. Localities will still decide specific staffing decisions to ensure students maintain continuity of services or learning.

If parents need help with lunches during this time, almost all local school districts are developing ways to get meals to students during the closure. WHSV has compiled a list for all of our local school districts that you can find

.

What is canceled?

Governor Northam banned all gatherings of 100 people or more throughout the state. Within the peninsula district, events with 50 people or more have been banned.

Locally, major events have been postponed or canceled due to the health risks surrounding COVID-19. Check our

and

for the latest cancellations and postponements.

Many businesses and offices are also closing. Make sure you call ahead before you go places throughout the weekend!

Flattening the Curve

All of the cancellations - including major sporting events around the country - 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 be a lot of strain on hospitals, putting them overcapacity. The goal is to keep the apex curve below hospital capacity.

How can we prevent the spread?

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!

Who gets tested for the virus?

Currently, there are two main reasons someone would be tested for the coronavirus: having symptoms or 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.

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.

For the latest factual information on COVID-19, you're encouraged to check both the

and the

.

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