Virginia COVID-19 cases jump to 7,491, partially driven by Harrisonburg outbreak
As of Friday, April 17, the Virginia Department of Health has received 7,491 positive or presumptive positive tests for COVID-19 across the commonwealth.
That's a jump of 602 cases confirmed to the department in a single day. More than 15% of those newest confirmed cases in the past day were in Harrisonburg alone.
New positive test results submitted to the department accelerated rapidly at the end of last week, with Virginia crossing 2,000 cases on Friday, April 3; 3,000 cases by Tuesday, April 7; 4,000 cases by Thursday, April 9; 5,000 by Saturday, April 11; and 6,000 by Tuesday, April 14.
It is important to remember that many tests still take days to process – up to a week and a half for some commercial labs – and then sometimes a day or two for the results to be submitted to the Department of Health, so the official tally of cases always reflects where testing was several days before. As testing capacity increases in Virginia, the confirmed cases increase too.
But researchers are also extremely confident there are many more people with positive cases who have not been tested because they didn't show symptoms, but can still pass the virus on to others.
By April 17, the Virginia Department of Health had confirmed 7,491 cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth.
Those positive test results are out of 48,997 people that have been tested in Virginia, which comes out to more than 15% of Virginians tested for the coronavirus receiving positive results. Less than half a percentage point of all Virginians have been tested.
At this point, 1,221 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and 231 have died of causes related to the disease. In
, Dr. Norm Oliver, the state health commissioner, said the data on deaths displayed by the VDH is almost always delayed by a day or several from when the deaths actually occurred.
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,
In our area, as of April 17, there were at least 19 confirmed cases in Augusta County, 214 cases in Harrisonburg, 83 cases in Rockingham County, 10 cases in Page County, 33 cases in Shenandoah County, 4 cases in Staunton, 7 cases in Waynesboro, 76 cases in Frederick County, 22 cases in Winchester, and 5 cases in Rockbridge County, along with 3 in Lexington.
That was a jump of 95 cases in Harrisonburg, which had 119 confirmed cases on Thursday. The increase is largely due to the
, though the exact number of patients at the facility cannot legally be provided by the health department.
It was the second largest single-day increase of any Virginia locality on Friday, behind only Fairfax County, which has the highest concentration of cases in the state.
Rockingham County cases increased by 14 in the past day as well.
The Central Shenandoah Health District has 4 identified outbreaks and the Lord Fairfax Health District has 7.
Health department officials have not specified the majority of the locations of those outbreaks, given that Virginia state code requires permission to be granted by a facility for their information to be released to the media, but it has been confirmed that Accordius Health Harrisonburg is the location of the Central Shenandoah Health District's lone long-term care facility outbreak. Harrisonburg officials
, and the city has dedicated resources to Accordius, while assistance from the state and national levels arrives to handle the influx of cases there.
Of the state's total hospitalizations, at least 15 have been in the Central Shenandoah Health District, which
, but would not identify the exact location of that death.
In the Lord Fairfax Health District, there have been at least 15 hospitalizations as well.
Just to the east, there have been at least 56 cases in Albemarle County, 40 in Charlottesville, 7 in Greene County, and 5 in Nelson County. There have been 39 hospitalizations there.
In the part of West Virginia we cover, one case has been confirmed
, three cases
, and one case in Grant County.
The numbers provided here are a blend of the data provided by the Virginia Department of Health and case updates provided directly by our local health districts.
As of April 17, the Thomas Jefferson Health District had reported 2,122 total COVID-19 tests performed. The Lord Fairfax Health District had reported 2,016 tests, and the Central Shenandoah Health District had reported 1,443 tests.
For context, on a state level, of the COVID-19 tests administered, a little more than 15% of people tested have received positive results. Of the tests administered in the Central Shenandoah Health District, more than 23% of people tested have received positive results.
According to Dr. Greene, with the Lord Fairfax Health District, those testing numbers reported by the Virginia Department of Health may not include all the tests that have actually been conducted. He said tests performed by private labs aren't always reported to the state if they came back negative, so advised that those numbers generally don't show the full picture.
Dr. Forlano, the state's deputy health commissioner, said in a Wednesday briefing that the state data is meant to give at look at overall trends more than it's meant to show every single case.
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
indicates that, as of April 17, at least 1,110 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from the hospital. Their data on hospitals is more current than VDH data, though, so they also show 1,308 patients currently hospitalized due to the virus.
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.
is updating with the latest statewide numbers at 9 a.m. each day.
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.
The VDH numbers always lag behind the numbers reported by local health districts because of multiple factors.
First, they're based on the test results that healthcare providers and laboratories submitted to the department by 5 p.m. the previous day, so any positive cases announced in the late afternoon or evening, as well as on the day of the case count update, cannot appear on the department's list.
In addition, representatives for local health districts have told us their first priority when a new case is confirmed in their district is to
to let anyone who may have potentially been exposed to the virus know. With that as the priority, sometimes reporting of local cases to the Virginia Department of Health falls lower on the ladder and those results may not show up on the state tally for another day or two.
Plus, the exact locations of cases can sometimes appear differently on the state map than they do for local health districts that know their localities better.
Considering all of those factors, as an example, the April 2 state website update did not show one case in Staunton that the Central Shenandoah Health District
, though it had updated to show two cases confirmed in Augusta County at the same time.
There was also, for the first few weeks as cases began to rise in Virginia, a glitch in the system for updates from the Lord Fairfax Health District being sent to the Department of Health that caused some of their numbers to not display correctly. However, as of April 6, Dr. Greene, representing the district, said that issue had been resolved.
With those lapses between local case reporting and the VDH, while we report every morning on the latest statewide totals, we're also reporting local case numbers based on results directly confirmed to us 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.
According to the Virginia Department of Health's April 17 breakdown, 48,997 people in Virginia had been tested for the virus, with 7,491 positive results. The number of total tests, which had been growing, has plateaued over the past week.
The department's breakdown and location map, available to the public
, 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 the full breakdown of cases as of 9:15 a.m. on April 17, starting with our most local cases and then broken down by health districts across the state (Note that not all cases confirmed by local districts yet appear on the statewide list):
• Augusta County - 19
• Buena Vista - 5
• Harrisonburg - 214
• Lexington - 3
• Rockbridge County - 5
• Rockingham County - 83
• Staunton - 4
• Waynesboro - 7
4, with 1 in a long-term care facility, 1 in a healthcare setting, 1 in a congregate setting, and 1 in an educational setting
• Clarke County - 6
• Frederick County - 76
• Page County - 10
• Shenandoah County - 33
• Warren County - 22
• Winchester - 22
7, with 2 in long-term care facilities, 3 in healthcare settings, and 2 in congregate settings
• Albemarle County - 56
• Charlottesville - 40
• Fluvanna County - 64
• Greene County - 7
• Louisa County - 33
• Nelson County - 5
2, with 1 in a long-term care facility and 1 in a correctional facility
• Culpeper County - 32
• Fauquier County - 35
• Madison County - 8
• Orange County - 19
• Rappahannock - 1
1 in a healthcare setting
• Alexandria City - 321
• Alleghany County - 4
• Botetourt County - 23
• Covington - 1
• Craig County - 2
• Roanoke County - 20
• Salem - 6
• Arlington County - 485
• Amherst County - 10
• Appomattox - 7
• Bedford County - 17
• Campbell County - 9
• Lynchburg - 38
• Chesapeake City - 147
• Chesterfield County - 291
• Colonial Heights - 19
• Powhatan County - 7
• Charles City County - 10
• Goochland County - 52
• Hanover County - 70
• New Kent - 17
• Dinwiddie - 7
• Emporia - 7
• Greensville - 18
• Hopewell - 14
• Petersburg - 21
• Prince George County - 28
• Surry - 3
• Sussex - 11
• Buchanan - 12
• Russell - 2
• Tazewell - 4
• Accomack County - 28
• Northampton - 5
• Fairfax County/City - 1,478
• Hampton City - 78
• Henrico County - 432
• Lee County - 7
• Scott County - 3
• Wise County - 17
• Loudoun County - 385
• Bristol - 1
• Carroll County - 3
• Galax - 1
• Smyth County - 11
• Washington County - 28
• Wythe County - 8
• Floyd County - 1
• Giles County - 4
• Montgomery County - 40
• Pulaski County - 8
• Radford City - 1
• Norfolk - 108
• James City County - 138
• Newport News - 100
• Poquoson - 6
• Williamsburg - 19
• York County - 38
• Amelia County - 13
• Buckingham County - 24
• Charlotte County - 8
• Cumberland County - 8
• Lunenburg - 3
• Nottoway - 5
• Prince Edward County - 17
• Danville - 22
• Pittsylvania County - 6
• Portsmouth - 63
• Manassas City - 72
• Manassas Park - 21
• Prince William County - 644
• Caroline County - 11
• Fredericksburg - 15
• King Georrge County - 18
• Spotsylvania County - 69
• Stafford County - 128
• Richmond - 201
• Roanoke City - 24
• Brunswick County - 10
• Halifax County - 7
• Mecklenburg County - 62
• Essex - 2
• Gloucester County - 20
• King and Queen - 2
• King William County - 2
• Lancaster County - 1
• Matthews - 3
• Middlesex - 3
• Northumberland - 5
• Richmond County - 8
• Westmoreland - 9
• Virginia Beach - 265
• Franklin County - 15
• Henry County - 10
• Franklin City - 9
• Isle of Wight County - 69
• Southampton - 7
• Suffolk - 70
On April 15, Governor Ralph Northam
, which closed many non-essential businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people. That order is now set to run through at least May 8.
On April 10, Gov. Northam
, allow releases of inmates with less than year left in their sentences, and emphasized a need for volunteers.
On April 8, in Northam's daily coronavirus briefing,
that he was postponing statewide June primaries by two weeks, which moves them past the end date of the Stay at Home order, and recommending that the General Assembly postpone May's local elections until November, to be held at the same time as national elections.
On March 30, Gov. Northam
, effectively instructing all Virginians to stay home except for essential needs.
Virginia remains under a state of emergency until June 10, and Northam's order that closed many non-essential businesses,
, remains in place for that length of time as well.
That order 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
All elective surgeries have also been postponed in Virginia hospitals through a public health order signed by Northam on March 25, designed to help preserve critical equipment like ventilators and personal protective gear.
The governor started out Wednesday's press conference by emphasizing that now is not the time to stop social distancing measures.
According to Virginia-specific modeling by the University of Virginia, we are projected to hit our peak of COVID-19 cases in late April or early May. However, the modeling also projects that if measures like social distancing and the Stay at Home order are lifted suddenly and too early, Virginia would see a second spike in cases in the summer that could potentially surpass what Virginia hospitals are prepared to handle.
As of right now, though, with current projections affected by the orders in place, Northam said hospitals will have the bed and ventilator capacity needed to handle our expected surge.
As of March 24,
ordered non-essential services, including all recreation and entertainment services, to close, as well as any non-essential businesses, like hair salons and massage therapists, that can't feasibly social distance.
is also the order that banned gatherings of more than 10 people in Virginia and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery, rather than in-house dining.
On Wednesday, Gov. Northam announced that he was extending the end-date of
by two weeks. It initially took effect for 30 days, set to expire on April 23. Now, the order is set to expire on May 8.
That means, effectively, that until May 8, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned and all businesses that had to initially close due to the order have to remain closed until May 8 at the earliest.
“As we have seen from our data and models, social distancing is working, and we are slowing the spread of this virus,” said Governor Northam. “But it is too early to let up. By extending this order to keep certain businesses closed or restricted, we can continue to evaluate the situation and plan for how to eventually ease restrictions so that our businesses may operate without endangering public health.”
The Stay at Home order, which was issued through Executive Order 55, remains in effect until June 10, as it was originally set.
The governor said he and his team will continue to monitor health data over the coming weeks to determine what happens next, after the May 8 expiration date.
Executive Order 53 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 were required to close.
Dining and on-site alcohol establishments are allowed to keep operating through delivery and takeout services, but had to 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.
The following list of businesses were required to close to the public as off 11:59 p.m. when Executive Order 53 was issued:
• 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.
Republican leaders in Virginia's House of Delegates – including House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, Republican Caucus Chair Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, and Republican Caucus Whip Jay Leftwich, R-Chesapeake – issued the following statement in response to the governor's executive order extension:
According to Gov. Northam, he and his office have been talking regularly with leadership in Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. to make sure each of the states in the region is moving forward in a coordinated way for what they determine is best for the health and safety of the public.
provided on Virginia's confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, 195 people have died of confirmed COVID-19-related causes.
That number reported by the VDH on April 15 was a jump of 41 deaths from the day before, which marked the biggest recorded one-day rise in deaths in the commonwealth.
Gov. Northam and his staff were asked what contributed to that number, and the response essentially was that a lot of the data reported to and confirmed by the state is delayed.
According to Dr. Norm Oliver, Virginia's state health commissioner, much of the data on deaths lags several days behind when the deaths actually occurred.
That's because, on the local level, due to the many steps in the process of local health districts entering data into the state system, the process can take a few days.
Dr. Oliver mentioned how the same people in local health districts responsible for tracing hundreds of people anyone with a confirmed case had contact with are the ones who have to handle data entry into the VDH system.
Often, he said, they are focused on that critical contact tracing part of their job, so data entry may not happen for a day or two, which causes the state numbers to lag behind.
Essentially, he said the numbers released at 9 a.m. each day on the VDH site reflect prior history, and not necessarily what happened on the day before.
As for the conditions of those who died, state health officials said many were elderly and had pre-existing conditions that made them especially vulnerable populations.
Data reported by Johns Hopkins University on testing across the country shows Virginia having the 2nd lowest rate of testing for COVID-19 in America, behind only California.
While Virginia has tested significantly more people than a number of other states, when the numbers are considered as a factor of population, the rate of testing is under half a percentage point.
State health officials said they are working to address the lack of capacity by trying to optimize testing capacity in Virginia's state labs and commercial labs, as well as at medical centers like VCU, UVA, and Carilion.
They acknowledged that many health care providers have often been caring for patients with presumed cases of COVID-19 without necessarily confirming the diagnosis with a laboratory test, and said they're working to get more of those patients tested.
Officials said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has three categories of cases, and Virginia has been focusing on people hospitalized with symptoms and health care workers. They are now adding those in long-term care facilities to the list of patients who get priority for available tests.
They also said they're evaluating with medical providers to broaden the criteria of who can get tested to get a better sense of exactly what's happening, with goals of outbreak intervention and public health surveillance.
Overall, it was acknowledged that more testing clearly needs to be made available, but that the goal of testing for diseases like COVID-19 is to understand the virus' trend – not necessarily to count every single cases.
Dr. Forlano said they key word in epidemiology is "trend" and that counting every single case of a disease is only possible for extremely rare diseases, like Ebola in the U.S., and that the goal is to understand overall trends for COVID-19 in Virginia.
Dr. Norm Oliver acknowledged that many medical providers have made clinical diagnoses of COVID-19 – doctors saying that a patient has the virus based on symptoms without having a laboratory test to confirm their diagnosis.
He said that those diagnoses have been reported to the Virginia Department of Health and that the department has encouraged medical providers to do so.
But while they're collecting that information, until a national guideline is established defining what counts as "suspect" coronavirus case, based on clinical diagnosis instead of lab testing, those numbers are not being reported to the public with the rest of the VDH data.
UVA modeling data indicates that even if Northam's Stay at Home order is lifted on its current date of June 10, if all activity returns to pre-coronavirus levels, Virginia would likely see another spike of coronavirus cases that wouldn't peak until August.
However, Gov. Northam said, as of now, he has no intention of extending the Stay at Home order.
In fact, he said that what he would like to be able to do is move that date back, if at all possible. That is dependent on people following the executive orders and following the CDC's social distancing guidelines in a way that decreases Virginia's curve of cases.
But he emphasized that decisions have to be made on current data, and the data changes every day, which requires decisions to be made on a day-to-day basis.
While acknowledging that that's frustrating, the governor said his team is focusing on how to help Virginia's economy, which was booming up through March, recover.
But he said it's key for people to realize, based on the science, that we won't just one day go back to "being normal again," at least in the near future.
So long as we don't have a vaccine and don't have a treatment, it's difficult to say when people can go back to normal life, Northam said.
Wearing a mask and social distancing, as well as other CDC-recommended measures, will have to continue for our society on a day-to-day basis until more is learned about the virus and we have those options for treatment and prevention available, the governor said.
While things will not go back to exactly how they were before, he said state leaders and everyone are figuring out together how to build a new normal, with tools like tele-working, social distancing, small gatherings, and more.
"We have to weigh what we want versus what we need," Northam said.
He pointed to health care workers, grocery store employees, volunteers, and more who are risking their health every day, saying that their sacrifices are helping to slow the spread of the virus, but that "we're in all this together" to help protect those workers' families.
On the topic of families, the governor also announced that Virginia is receiving $70 million through the CARES Act to help provide childcare for children of essential workers.
Northam said that he and his staff have been watching national models throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to make key decisions like closing schools for the rest of the school year, issuing a Stay at Home order, and closing non-essential businesses.
Those models included the University of Washington and CHIME models, which have been heavily relied upon.
The governor noted how those models change on a daily basis and said that Virginia leadership wanted to take into account Virginia-specific data, including data on how Virginians have responded to the coronavirus.
In response, researchers with the University of Virginia have developed a specific model for the commonwealth.
It will change each day based on behavior in Virginia, but the modeling has been designed as of April 13 and was demonstrated to many reporters just before the governor's 2 p.m. briefing.
The new UVA model shows that social distancing measures are working to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Northam said, and also show that Virginia hospitals have sufficient capacity to handle the expected surge in patients.
However, the model also shows that if the Stay at Home order and other restrictions are lifted too soon, cases across Virginia would surge and threaten the available capacity at medical facilities.
Specifically, the models suggest another wave of illness in mid-July or August if we don’t slowly ease back into normal life.
"And we can't afford that," Northam said.
He reiterated that modeling data shows that the key is for "us to keep doing what we're doing" and stopping any time soon would put Virginians in danger.
As K-12 schools remain closed throughout Virginia until the end of the school year, teachers and school division leaders have been working hard to adapt to the situation to keep providing educational opportunities for their students.
Gov. Northam said they're all doing their best to address inequities in education to ensure all students are able to keep learning, but to help them, the state is making additional education resources available.
That includes expanding "Virtual Virginia," which is a statewide online learning system, to allow every public school teacher in Virginia to host line classes through June 30.
For students who don't have internet access, Virtual Virginia content can be loaded onto devices and used offline as well.
In addition, Northam highlighted the new
program, through which four public media TV stations have partnered with the Virginia Dept. of Education to provide education over the air.
The department also convened a task force on continuity of education to develop guidance on how to ensure that there are no gaps between who gets an education as the pandemic wears on.
The governor said, along with budget amendments he approved by the state constitutional deadline over the weekend, was an amendment to increase rates given to long-term care facilities by $20 per Medicaid recipient per day to assist the facilities' responses to COVID-19.
The governor also said that they are looking into using Virginia's reserve corps of volunteers to help provide more staffing at nursing homes and long-term care centers facing staffing shortages, as many across the country have in the face of coronavirus.
According to the task force established last Friday on long-term care facilities across Virginia, there have been at least 554 COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths identified across the state.
Data on the number of identified outbreaks, including if they were in these especially vulnerable facilities, is now available on the
Dr. Laurie Forlano, the deputy commissioner for public health at the Virginia Department of Health who's been heading the task force, said that, over the weekend, when a new outbreak was identified at one long-term care center, which she did not identify, the health district reported it immediately and worked hand-in-hand with the task force to respond to the situation. She said UVA offered testing kits and increased testing capacity to test residents at the center.
She said they will continue to work with their local partners across the state to sustain that kind of response in the future.
While Dr. Forlano did not identify the specific facility or health district, the Central Shenandoah Health District reported a new outbreak in a long-term care facility this past weekend. They have declined to identify the facility to WHSV or other media outlets.
Governor Northam said, among the bills he signed by the state constitutional deadline Saturday night, was the state budget, to which he and his team proposed more than 100 amendments.
According to the governor, 49 of those amendments are language amendments that would give agencies greater flexibility as to how they conduct business during the pandemic. Another 83 of the amendments, he said, would unlock new discretionary spending for state agencies to continue their response.
When asked about a statement by President Donald Trump on hospitals doing well amid the crisis, Gov. Northam said we're nowhere near where we want to be in supplies. While Virginia hospitals remain prepared in terms of bed capacity, when looking at modeling on surge data, he said they're facing challenges on staffing, PPE, and ventilator supplies, like many hospitals across the country, and that those challenges need to be addressed in terms of reality.
The governor announced in his briefing that he has appointed Dr. Laurie Forlano, currently the deputy commissioner for public health at the Virginia Department of Health, to head up a task force on responding to outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care centers across Virginia.
The move was especially prompted by the
, where dozens of people have died in recent weeks.
Northam said Dr. Forlano will head up a coalition of public health officials that will work to make sure all facilities have access to testing, PPE, and the cleaning supplies they need to respond to the pandemic.
Dr. Forlano said as staff at all these facilities are dedicated to protecting the people that live there, she and the task force will ensure long-term care facilities are prioritized and get the funding they need, as well as needed information.
The task force will also track data specific to long-term care facilities in Virginia.
For instance, on Friday, Dr. Forlano said the state has identified 45 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the state, which makes up about 55% of all outbreaks identified in the state.
They've also identified 525 cases among those facilities.
The governor also announced on Friday that he is proposing a state budget amendment to give the Virginia Department of Corrections the authority to release inmates who have one year or less remaining in their sentences.
That's because most correctional facilities across Virginia face serious overcrowding
The authority granted to the department would allow them to release inmates who don't pose a threat to the safety of themselves or anyone else and also meet good behavior standards.
Under the amendment, the Dept. of Corrections would handle re-entry planning for about 2,000 inmates who meet the standard of having a year or less in their sentence.
The department, which has never before had the authority to release inmates, would need to plan for inmates to have somewhere to go upon their release and have necessary medications for at least three months.
The authority would last for the duration of Gov. Northam's executive orders, which are currently set until June 10.
However, for it to happen, the General Assembly will need to approve the amendment at their special session on April 22.
According to Governor Northam, more than 191,000 payments went out through the Virginia Employment Commission over the past week.
Next week, through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, Virginia's unemployment insurance will offer payments boosted by about $600 a week to everyone who qualifies.
Through the CARES Act, people who previously did not qualify, like gig workers, can also now apply through the VEC and get benefits.
You can learn more about the coming unemployment insurance changes
Governor Northam was asked why, while President Donald Trump says "he's a glass half full kind of guy" and hopes to reopen the country soon, he instead provides somber updates.
Northam said while he wants everyone to get life back to normal as soon as possible, "we have to face reality."
The governor, who was a doctor before taking office, said his leadership style comes from his time in the medical field, so he's "a big believer in telling people the truth."
He said he looks at the data every day, looks at admissions to Virginia hospitals, looks at the number of patients now on ventilators, and bases public health decisions on the data and the recommendations of his staff.
"My job as your governor is to keep Virginians safe," Northam said.
He used an analogy of doctors making a treatment plan with a cancer patient, letting them know guidelines to follow and medicines to take. In a situation like that, we know that stopping the plan early just because it seems to be working is not the right course of action, because the cancer returns.
The governor said ending the Stay at Home order or social distancing guidelines because models appear to project peaks earlier would be largely the same, and people need to keep staying home and staying safe to get through this.
"This is a biologic war that we're fighting," the governor said, and Virginians all need to follow the guidelines set based on data.
The governor said we have to get through the health crisis before he sees a path to fully address the economic crisis.
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