Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by nearly 500 in a day, hit 4,509

RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — As of Friday, April 10, the Virginia Department of Health has received 4,509 positive or presumptive positive tests for COVID-19 across the commonwealth.

Graphic provided by Virginia Department of Health

New positive test results have accelerated rapidly in the past week, with Virginia crossing 2,000 cases on Friday, April 3, 3,000 cases by Tuesday, April 7, and 4,000 cases by Thursday, April 9.

The increase of more than 460 cases from Thursday to Friday is the largest one-day increase for Virginia so far in the coronavirus pandemic.

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 will 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.

The statewide situation in Virginia

On April 8, in Governor Ralph Northam's daily coronavirus briefing, he announced 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 issued a 'Stay at Home' order for all Virginians by signing Executive Order 55, 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, Executive Order 53, 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 here.

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.

Case totals as of April 10

By April 10, the Virginia Department of Health had confirmed 4,509 cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth.

Those positive test results are out of 35,459 people that have been tested in Virginia, which comes out to more than 12% of Virginians tested for the coronavirus receiving positive results.

At this point, 772 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and 121 have died of causes related to the disease.

That's a jump of nearly 100 hospitalizations in a single day.

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.

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.

The Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 website 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.

Local cases

In our area, as of April 10, there were at least 15 confirmed cases in Augusta County, 57 cases in Harrisonburg, 31 cases in Rockingham County, 5 cases in Page County, 15 cases in Shenandoah County, 1 case in Staunton, 5 cases in Waynesboro, 62 cases in Frederick County, 16 cases in Winchester, and 3 cases in Rockbridge County, along with 3 in Lexington.

Just to the east, there have been at least 43 cases in Albemarle County, 28 in Charlottesville, 4 in Greene County, and 4 in Nelson County.

In the part of West Virginia we cover, one case has been confirmed in Pendleton County and two cases in Hardy 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.

The Central Shenandoah Health District has confirmed to WHSV that they have confirmed at least 121 cases in their district, with the majority in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Harrisonburg city officials said on Thursday that they knew of at least 80 combined between the city and Rockingham County.

However, while many of those cases are shown on the Virginia Department of Health's map, not all of them are yet there.

Why do some cases that have been confirmed in my area not appear on the state map?

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 work on tracing the contacts the patient had 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 confirmed to WHSV on March 29, though it had updated to show two cases confirmed in Augusta County at the same time.

There was also, initially, 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 for weeks. 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.

West Virginia's communication system between the local and state health departments is a little different, and their numbers, at this point, are considerably lower, so a similar discrepancy hasn't been seen there yet.

Reporting by local health districts

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 current models, highlighted by Gov. Northam on Wednesday, don't project until most likely some time in May.

Our Virginia counties are primarily served by the Central Shenandoah Health District, which covers Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge and Rockingham counties, as well as the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton and Waynesboro; and the Lord Fairfax Health District, which covers Shenandoah, Page, Frederick, Warren, and Clarke counties, as well as the city of Winchester.

Where are all the confirmed cases?

According to the department's April 10 breakdown, 35,459 people in Virginia had been tested for the virus, with 4,509 positive results. That testing number was an increase of more than 3,000 from the day before.

Their breakdown and location map, available to the public here, 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 26 of Virginia's confirmed cases have been in children 9 and under, and there have been 79 cases in children 10-19.

Here's the full breakdown of cases as of 9:15 a.m. on April 10, 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):

Central Shenandoah
• Augusta County - 15
• Buena Vista - 4
• Harrisonburg - 57
• Lexington - 3
• Rockbridge County - 3
• Rockingham County - 31
• Staunton - 1
• Waynesboro - 5

Lord Fairfax
• Clarke County - 3
• Frederick County - 62
• Page County - 5
• Shenandoah County - 15
• Warren County - 10
• Winchester - 16

Thomas Jefferson
• Albemarle County - 43
• Charlottesville - 28
• Fluvanna County - 16
• Greene County - 4
• Louisa County - 20
• Nelson County - 4

Rappahannock Rapidan
• Culpeper County - 14
• Fauquier County - 23
• Madison County - 5
• Orange County - 14
• Rappahannock - 1

Alexandria
• Alexandria City - 174

Alleghany
• Alleghany County - 2
• Botetourt County - 21
• Covington - 1
• Craig County - 2
• Roanoke County - 13
• Salem - 1

Arlington
• Arlington County - 312

Central Virginia
• Amherst County - 9
• Appomattox - 5
• Bedford County - 15
• Campbell County - 7
• Lynchburg - 27

Cheseapeake
• Chesapeake City - 109

Chesterfield
• Chesterfield County - 179
• Colonial Heights - 4
• Powhatan County - 4

Chickahominy
• Charles City County - 7
• Goochland County - 26
• Hanover County - 31
• New Kent - 13

Crater
• Dinwiddie - 3
• Emporia - 5
• Greensville - 7
• Hopewell - 14
• Petersburg - 13
• Prince George County - 26
• Surry - 3
• Sussex - 8

Cumberland Plateau
• Buchanan - 1
• Russell - 1
• Tazewell - 4

Eastern Shore
• Accomack County - 12
• Northampton - 4

Fairfax
• Fairfax County/City - 778

Hampton
• Hampton City - 62

Henrico
• Henrico County - 342

Lenowisco
• Lee County - 3
• Scott County - 3
• Wise County - 8

Loudoun
• Loudoun County - 274

Mount Rogers
• Bristol - 1
• Carroll County - 3
• Galax - 1
• Smyth County - 9
• Washington County - 17
• Wythe County - 7

New River
• Floyd County - 1
• Giles County - 2
• Montgomery County - 18
• Pulaski County - 4
• Radford City - 1

Norfolk
• Norfolk - 88

Peninsula
• James City County - 125
• Newport News - 68
• Poquoson - 6
• Williamsburg - 17
• York County - 25

Piedmont
• Amelia County - 9
• Buckingham County - 10
• Charlotte County - 2
• Cumberland County - 8
• Lunenburg - 2
• Nottoway - 3
• Prince Edward County - 5

Pittsylvania-Danville
• Danville - 20
• Pittsylvania County - 4

Portsmouth
• Portsmouth - 48

Prince William
• Manassas City - 29
• Manassas Park - 7
• Prince William County - 337

Rappahannock
• Caroline County - 6
• Fredericksburg - 10
• King Georrge County - 14
• Spotsylvania County - 43
• Stafford County - 60

Richmond
• Richmond - 139

Roanoke
• Roanoke City - 16

Southside
• Brunswick County - 2
• Halifax County - 5
• Mecklenburg County - 48

Three Rivers
• Gloucester County - 18
• King and Queen - 2
• King William County - 2
• Lancaster County - 1
• Matthews - 2
• Middlesex - 3
• Northumberland - 3
• Richmond County - 5
• Westmoreland - 8

Virginia Beach
• Virginia Beach - 224

West Piedmont
• Franklin County - 13
• Henry County - 5

Western Tidewater
• Franklin City - 6
• Isle of Wight County - 24
• Southampton - 5
• Suffolk - 35

The latest updates from Gov. Northam's April 8 briefing

Elections

Gov. Northam announced in his Wednesday briefing that, due to the effects of COVID-19 and potential impacts to voters and election workers, he is using his authority as governor to postpone the June 9 primary elections to June 23.

The authority granted to the Virginia governor gives them the ability to postpone primary elections by up to two weeks, so Northam is using the extent of that power.

As of right now, Virginia's state of emergency and 'Stay at Home' order each last through June 10, one day after the previously set date for the primary elections, which include a Republican primary for U.S. Senate and several primaries for regional House of Representatives races,

“As other states have shown, conducting an election in the middle of this global pandemic would bring unprecedented challenges and potential risk to voters and those who work at polling places across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Making these decisions now will help election officials prepare and implement the necessary changes. This is about protecting the health and safety of Virginians during this pandemic and ensuring our citizens can make their voices heard in a safe, fair, and uniform manner. I urge the General Assembly to do their part and take action to move our upcoming elections.”

The Virginia GOP and local-level Republican parties had advised all members of the party to apply to vote absentee while implying in some statements that the June 9 date for Gov. Northam's executive order had been purposefully tied to the primary date, though the day also has elections for House of Representatives primaries.

The primary elections, in our area, will determine Virginia's Republican nominee to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Mark Warner. Virginia's presidential primary, which only included Democratic candidates because the state Republican Party chose to choose a presidential nominee at convention instead, happened on Super Tuesday at the beginning of March. Other areas of Virginia will have primaries for House of Representatives races, including Democrat and Republican nominees.

Northam is also recommending that Virginia's local elections in May be delayed to November, when they would be held along with national elections on Nov. 3. However, that change can only be made by the General Assembly, so the governor said legislators will need to consider the recommendation when they re-convene for a special session on April 22.

The governor's full recommendation proposes a plan for one ballot in November that includes both national elections and the local elections that would have been held in May. All voters qualified for November voting would be able to vote, including voters who weren't registered in time for May elections, giving people more time to register if they couldn't due to COVID-19.

Local officials whose terms are currently set to end on June 30 will continue in their roles if that plan is approved until their successors are elected on Nov. 3 and qualified to serve.

Northam said his recommendations and his order on the primary were made after discussing the changes with Virginia's congressional delegation, as well as leaders in the state House and Senate.

PPE distribution

Gov. Northam also announced in Wednesday's briefing that the state had sent out 1.5 million gloves and 430,000 N95 masks to medical providers across the commonwealth.

He said several thousand more N95 masks were sent on Tuesday and Wednesday, with numerous shipments to localities.

New Virginia ABC license and fee changes

Northam said in Wednesday's briefing that he has directed the Virginia ABC to defer all fees for licenses and permits that are up for renewal through June as a way to assist restaurants and Virginia businesses.

Many restaurants that have been forced to close due to COVID-19 still have active Virginia ABC licenses for serving alcohol, and Northam said the change would help more than 6,000 businesses that would otherwise have to pay fees for licenses they can't use right now.

But for those restaurants still open and offering takeout, Northam announced other ABC change as well.

Restaurants and facilities with mixed beverage licenses through the state board will be allowed to serve mixed beverages for takeout as of midnight Thursday morning, effectively allowing locations that serve takeout to include mixed drinks with someone's takeout order.

Outstanding legislation from the March General Assembly session

Gov. Northam said about 460 bills remain that the General Assembly passed a month ago, early in March, which he has not yet acted on, including the legislators' budget amendments.

He said he's signed more than 800 bills so far and will act on all the remaining bills by Saturday night. The actions taken on those bills will all be public by Monday morning.

UVA Health working on modeling for surge in Virginia

When asked about the status of a model Gov. Northam mentioned on Monday that UVA Health researchers are working on to develop projections with Virginia-specific data for a peak in cases, the governor said researchers are continuing to collect data to put that model together as quickly as possible, but it is still in progress.

Response to outbreaks in Virginia nursing homes

When asked about Maryland's announcement that they are sending "strike teams" to nursing home and retirement communities across their state to facilitate response to COVID-19, Northam said Virginia has already been doing essentially the same thing, though without the same name.

He commended nursing homes and retirement communities for doing everything they've been able to throughout the crisis.

Details of the 'Stay at Home' order

In Northam's March 30 briefing, he announced that he was immediately implementing a 'Stay at Home' order for Virginia, taking effect from March 30 until June 10, unless it's later amended or rescinded.

The move came after Maryland's governor announced a similar order in the morning. West Virginia and North Carolina each already had similar orders in place before Monday.

The order Northam announced in his press conference is Executive Order 55.

What does a 'Stay at Home' order mean?

It, essentially, means that Virginians can only leave home for food, supplies, work, medical care, or exercise/fresh air purposes.

Only leave home if you have an essential reason to do so — Going to visit a friend for a poker game would not be essential. Going to visit a friend to help care for them because they have a broken leg would be essential. Exercise common sense about what is or isn't essential, and if it isn't, then don't go out.

You're still free to leave the house to get groceries or go to the pharmacy. You're also still free to go on a run or go for a hike, so long as you're following social distancing. But if you're not doing something essential and if you're not following social distancing orders, then just don't do it.

“Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing," Northam said.

It doesn't mean you have to be barred inside your home and cannot leave at all; but it does mean you should limit leaving homes as much as possible.

What changed from Friday to Monday?

Last Friday, when asked why he had not issued a 'Stay at Home' order at that time, Gov. Northam said, "We're talking semantics here."

Northam said his message, repeatedly each day, had been to tell Virginians to stay at home, and that that was the same message that all states were giving.

But on Monday, the governor said after seeing people not following social distancing guidelines and packing beaches and trails, he was changing course and issuing an order.

"This was a suggestion," Northam said. "Today, it's an order."

Possible consequences

Anyone holding a gathering of more than 10 people can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor while the order is in place. That's through the previous Executive Order 53, which closed many non-essential business across Virginia.

Any violations of the parts of the order requiring the cancellation of in-person college classes, the closure of public beaches, and the closure of short-term stays at overnight campgrounds can also be charged as Class 1 misdemeanors.

What about non-essential businesses?

The language from Gov. Northam's previous executive order, Executive Order 53, remains in place, which allows restaurants and "non-essential" brick-and-mortar retail stores to continue operating, so long as they limit people in any space to 10 and stick to delivery, takeout, and pickup services at restaurants.

Any business that cannot follow the social distancing order of 10 patrons or fewer is required to close, according to Northam.

Previous status updates on Virginia

Elective procedures postponed

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 Order of Public Health Emergency Two.

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.

State parks

Gov. Northam announced that 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.

Schools closed for the rest of the academic year

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 ordered school closures through this coming Friday 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 to be able to waive end-of-year testing requirements for the year.

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 a list of how local schools are providing meals here.

Business restrictions

Northam also announced on Monday that he would be signing Executive Order 53, 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.

Unemployment updates

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 www.vec.virginia.gov.

A FAQ guide from the Office of the Governor also outlines policies for workers that have been temporarily laid off or discharged during the public health crisis.

Stress and anxiety

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.

Community spread

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.

Medicaid

State leaders clarified in their March 19 conference that Medicaid coverage covers testing and treatment for patients with COVID-19.

Child care

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.

SBA loans

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 a rundown on their website of what to know about the program. You can also find more directly through the SBA at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/EIDLLoans.

Tax changes

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 a secure e-mail system available on the Virginia Tax website.

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.

Vehicle inspections

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.

Blood donations

Northam encouraged everyone in his March 18 address to donate blood for the American Red Cross, which announced yesterday 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 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.

DMV closures

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. That closure was later extended to at least April 23.

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 dmvNOW.com, if possible.

Utilities

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued an order 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 temporarily suspended late or nonpayment fees.

Courts

The Supreme Court of Virginia granted a judicial emergency in response to COVID-19. 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.

State of Emergency

On March 12, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19, with many local officials doing the same in the following days.

On March 13, he ordered all public K-12 schools across Virginia to close for at least two weeks.

General info on COVID-19

Flattening the Curve

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.

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. 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.

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 Virginia Department of Health and the CDC.