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Virginia COVID-19 cases rise to 31,140 as percent positivity keeps declining

Graphic courtesy: Virginia Department of Health
Graphic courtesy: Virginia Department of Health(WHSV)
Published: May. 18, 2020 at 9:26 AM EDT
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As of Monday, May 18, Virginia has had 31,140 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

That's a rise of 752 cases since Sunday, alongside 7,568 newly reported tests, which comes out to 9.9% of the newest tests coming back positive – a lower proportion than the current state average.

On Friday, most parts of Virginia (excluding

, as well as

after their local leaders requested delays approved by the governor) entered Phase 1 of the 'Forward Virginia' plan for reopening, allowing restaurants to open up outdoor seating at 50% capacity, personal grooming services to open up with many safety restrictions in place, houses of worship to operate at 50% capacity, and more business changes outlined

.

All decisions made by the governor and state officials about reopening, for Phase 1 and all future phases, are based on overall trends in the data over week and 2-week spans.

From Friday to Saturday, there were 1,011 new cases reported in Virginia, followed by a rise of 705 from Saturday to Sunday.

So far in May, on an overall "trend" level, cases have largely still been increasing anywhere from 500 to 1,000 cases a day, but most days have seen significantly more testing over time, so the moving 7-day average, which tracks the number of cases confirmed as a ratio of the amount of testing, has fallen, with Virginia on the downward side of "the curve" now.

That 7-day average is key to Governor Ralph Northam and his administration's decisions moving forward on when the commonwealth will enter Phases 2 and 3 of reopening, as well as, on a local level, if any locality may have to face increased restrictions.

After Virginia had been ranked among states with the lowest per capita testing through the start of May, testing capacity has ramped up, with state health officials saying the goal isn't to compete with cumulative testing numbers but to focus on getting tests to the people and areas in most need of them.

Virginia has been meeting the benchmark of steady PPE supplies and open hospital capacity for around two weeks now, with 4,389 hospital beds available and no Virginia hospitals reporting any supply problems.

The commonwealth increased from around 2,000 tests a day to between 3,000 and 5,000 two weeks ago, and now seems to be more steadily hitting anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000. The governor has said the goal for

is around 10,000 tests a day.

As testing increases, the rate of tested Virginians who received positive results is slowly but surely dropping.

Statewide case totals and testing numbers as of May 18

By May 18, the Virginia Department of Health had received reports of 29,591 confirmed and 1,549 probable cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth.

"Probable" cases are cases that were diagnosed by a doctor based on symptoms and exposure without a test – also known as clinical diagnoses.

Those positive test results are out of 218,393 total tests administered in Virginia, which included 23,716 antibody tests (The Dept. of Health announced last Thursday that

, following criticism for initially reporting the two together.)

From Sunday to Monday, 7,568 new tests were reported to the health department.

Overall, considering testing numbers and positive results, about 14.3% of Virginians who have been tested have received positive results. Two weeks ago, that percentage was standing steadily around 17%, but with increased testing, it's come down over time. It looks a little different on local levels, as outlined below, though.

That number's average over a week-long span is critical to reopening plans, Gov. Northam

, and the local version of that 7-day average is why Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Accomack County did not enter Phase 1.

At this point, 3,822 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and at least 1,014 have died of causes related to the disease.

The hospitalization and death numbers are the totals confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health, which are always delayed by several days due to the logistics of medical facilities reporting information to local health districts, when then report it to the state health department.

The

shows a lot of detail by locality, including hospitalizations and deaths for each city or county, and are

on the health department website.

The hospitalization numbers are cumulative — they represent the total number of people hospitalized due to the disease throughout the pandemic and not the total number currently in the hospital. For current hospitalization stats,

.

Where are our local cases?

According to the Virginia Department of Health's May 18 breakdown, 218,393 tests have been run for the virus in Virginia, with 31,140 positive results.

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 a breakdown of cases for our region as of 9 a.m. on May 18. You can find the breakdown for the entire state in the chart at the bottom of this article.

Central Shenandoah

• Augusta County - 85

• Buena Vista - 9

• Harrisonburg - 633

• Highland County - 2

• Lexington - 6

• Rockbridge County - 11

• Rockingham County - 397

• Staunton - 33

• Waynesboro - 24

Outbreaks:

12, with 3 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a healthcare setting, 6 in congregate settings, 1 in a correctional facility, and 1 in an educational setting

Total tests:

4,893

Local percent positive:

24.5%

Lord Fairfax

• Clarke County - 18

• Frederick County - 217

• Page County - 161

• Shenandoah County - 319

• Warren County - 99

• Winchester - 84

Outbreaks:

15, with 7 in long-term care facilities, 3 in healthcare settings, and 5 in congregate settings

Total tests:

2,476

Local percent positive:

36.3%

Thomas Jefferson

• Albemarle County - 139

• Charlottesville - 72

• Fluvanna County - 82

• Greene County - 19

• Louisa County - 60

• Nelson County - 12

Outbreaks:

6, with 4 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a correctional facility, and 1 in a congregate setting

Total tests:

6,437

Local percent positive:

6.0%

Rappahannock Rapidan

• Culpeper County - 388

• Fauquier County - 223

• Madison County - 24

• Orange County - 60

• Rappahannock - 12

Outbreaks:

5, with 1 in a healthcare setting and 4 in congregate settings

Total tests:

4,351

Local percent positive:

16.2%

Local outbreaks

As numbers have climbed in parts of the Shenandoah Valley, much of the increase has been attributable to outbreaks within particular facilities. By May 18, the Central Shenandoah Health District had identified 12 outbreaks and the Lord Fairfax Health District had 15.

Health department officials have not specified the majority of the locations of our outbreaks, because the Virginia Department of Health has interpreted Virginia code as treating facilities the same as "persons," meaning their anonymity has to be protected. So information about outbreaks is only released to the public if a facility grants permission for that to be released.

Of the outbreaks in our area, several have been confirmed at long-term care centers, including at

;

" target="_blank">Skyview Springs, where there have been 16 confirmed deaths

;

, where Augusta Health has confirmed a "COVID situation" but no exact numbers have been provided; and three outbreaks in Shenandoah County, including one at an unnamed nursing home and two at unnamed assisted living facilities.

The largest of those outbreaks was the one at

, where 81 residents and 12 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in April. By Tuesday, May 5, the facility

due to coronavirus. By a little later in May,

.

In Page County, the outbreak at

resulted in 59 residents and 23 staff members testing positive for the virus. By May 13,

" target="_blank">16 people there had died of COVID-19-related causes

.

The facility has 115 residents total.

Dr. Colin Greene, with the Lord Fairfax Health District, told WHSV on May 11 that the Skyview Springs outbreak was the only major outbreak in the Page County area.

However, he said they were monitoring five active outbreaks in Shenandoah County. Due to Virginia code preventing the identification of facilities with outbreaks, he could not identify the exact locations, but said two were at businesses, two at assisted living facilities, and one at a nursing home.

Outbreaks have also been confirmed at

,

, with at least 25 positive cases, and

, which had at least six cases by the end of April but then stopped providing updates on their employee hotline so that media outlets would not have access to the information, which was not publicly provided.

Also, New Market Poultry Products, which has more than 100 employees working on a daily basis,

– though an exact number was not provided and no update has come since then.

None of the other Shenandoah Valley poultry plants have released any information about COVID-19 cases to the public, though

and Cargill in Dayton has confirmed the death of one employee due to COVID-19 – though never any information on the number of cases at the facility.

Poultry plants and other meat processing facilities have been hotspots for the virus across the country and a focus of Gov. Northam's in Virginia. State health commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver has also referenced the situation at poultry plants in Harrisonburg leading to a disproportionate number of cases among the Latino community in the Shenandoah Valley, though, again the facilities themselves have released no information publicly.

Many of the local outbreaks that do not have confirmed locations have been identified in congregate settings, which could include workplaces, apartment complexes, churches, gyms, or any setting with a group of people in one place.

Hospitalizations

Of the state's 3,822 total hospitalizations, at least 89 have been in the Central Shenandoah Health District. Of those, 3 have been in Augusta County, 45 in Harrisonburg, 37 in Rockingham County, 3 in Staunton, and 1 in Waynesboro.

In the Lord Fairfax Health District, there have been at least 80 hospitalizations. Twenty-eight of those have been in Shenandoah County and 19 in Page County.

Deaths

As far as deaths, there have been 12 reported in Shenandoah County, 16 in Page County, one in Augusta County, 21 in Harrisonburg, and two in Rockingham County.

Deaths, like all health department data, are reported by a person's listed residence.

WHSV confirmed with Cargill, in Rockingham County,

of COVID-19. The company did not provide further details on if any outbreaks are investigation, though the situation at poultry facilities across Virginia has been a

.

Dr. Norm Oliver, the state's health commissioner, has said that it often takes several days before local health districts are able to enter death information into the state database. Dr. Laura Kornegay, director of the Central Shenandoah Health District, told WHSV that deaths first have to be reported to them by medical facilities, which is a major cause for the delay on the numbers reported for our area.

Dr. Kornegay also explained that if someone has tested positive for COVID-19, that's what goes on their death certificate. Those death certificates have a space to list secondary causes of death, and that's where ongoing health issues like heart disease and cancer are listed – the same process is how flu deaths are reported.

West Virginia updates

In the part of West Virginia we cover, there have been 6 confirmed cases in Grant County, 27 confirmed cases in Hardy County, and 5 confirmed cases in Pendleton County.

Recovery

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 May 18, at least 4,107 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from the hospital.

Unlike the VDH data that reports cumulative hospitalizations, their data on hospitalizations reflects people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 (whether with confirmed or pending cases), and that number is at 1,502.

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.

Timing of VDH data

The

is updating with the latest statewide numbers somewhere between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. each day. In recent days, that has steadily creeped closer to 10 a.m.

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.

Reporting 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.

The statewide situation in Virginia

Most of Virginia has officially entered

on May 15, but the commonwealth remains under a series of public health orders and executive orders designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

, which closed many non-essential businesses across Virginia and established Virginia's 10-person gathering limit, no longer applies in its original form as businesses originally deemed non-essential begin gradually reopening, but the 10-person gathering limit is still in place and still enforceable.

, the 'Stay at Home' order signed by Northam on March 30, is now a 'Safer at Home' order, instructing all Virginians to continue staying home as the safest way to prevent COVID-19 spread and specifically telling Virginians vulnerable to the virus to stay home except for essential needs.

Virginia's state of emergency runs until June 10.

The Virginia Supreme Court's judicial emergency, which suspended all non-essential, non-emergency court hearings, will expire on May 17 and

on Monday, May 18.

DMV offices in Virginia remain closed until Monday, when they will begin

open by appointment only for specific reasons. During the closure, Virginia State Police have not been enforcing inspections and extensions have been granted to people with expiring credentials for themselves or their vehicles.

Elective procedures and related offices, like dentists, were able to resume on May 1 after Gov. Northam

.

Of the orders in place, Executive Order 53 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

.

Virginia's

and the

have each been postponed by two weeks. Virginia officials are encouraging all voters to request absentee ballots.

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.

It spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract the virus by touching those objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

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.

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.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent or antiviral medication to treat COVID-19. The best way to avoid illness is preventing exposure, which is why governments around the world have implemented Stay at Home orders.

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

and the

.