UPDATE 5:14 p.m.: Gov. Ralph Northam held a news conference on Sunday afternoon to provide an update on the COVID-19 outbreak after Saturday’s first coronavirus-related death and VDH’s report of 45 presumptive positive and confirmed cases.
Northam says that all municipal buildings on the peninsula will close to the public for two weeks to limit contact between people, but these local governments will continue to provide services such as trash collection and law enforcement.
The governor also confirmed his decision to impose a statewide ban on special public events that bring more than 100 people into a single space without room to spread out, such as festivals, conferences, and anything that would require a stadium or concert hall to fit the crowd. However, the large gatherings ban will not include hospitals, restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, or airports, Northam says.
In addition, according to Northam, state agencies have been asked to prepare remote working methods as much as possible for employees.
These measures follow the governor’s other directives throughout the week, including declaring a state of emergency, closing all K-12 schools for two weeks, restricting visitors at nursing homes and correctional facilities, and limiting state employee travel.
Most of all, Northam asks Virginians to use common sense and stay home. Health experts say it is necessary to accomplish social distancing in order to prevent spread of the coronavirus, keep Virginians healthy, and not overwhelm healthcare system.
“Ask yourself if it’s really that important that you go out right now,” the governor says.
Dr. Norm Oliver, State Commissioner of Health, says that VDH is conducting contact investigations, which involves looking into hundreds of people who had contact with presumptive positive or confirmed coronavirus patients, identifying potential new cases, and isolating them.
According to Oliver, VDH is investigating upwards of 300 contacts from the eight cases in the Peninsula Health District alone. Seven of those eight cases can be traced back to the same two contacts, Oliver says, but man who passed away Saturday was exposed to the virus by an unknown source.
The state lab currently has 500-600 coronavirus tests, according to Oliver, but private labs have come online to expand testing potential.
In addition to the $8.3 billion funding package signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, March 6 to combat the virus, U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) says that the House of Representatives approved the Families First Response Act early Saturday morning and passed it along to the Senate. According to McEachin, this second act would provide free testing for the coronavirus; strengthen food assistance for students, seniors at food banks, young pregnant woman, and single mothers; safeguard Medicare benefits; enhance unemployment aid; and establish paid leave.
Northam continues to ask Virginians to take simple health precautions in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
UPDATE 1:03 p.m.: Gov. Ralph Northam announced Sunday a ban on gatherings of 100 or more people in Virginia amid coronavirus concerns.
(WFXR) — Virginia health officials have not reported any additional coronavirus-related deaths since Saturday evening, but they announced on Sunday afternoon that number of presumptive positive and confirmed cases in the Commonwealth has climbed from 41 to 45 overnight.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) says it has received 408 test results from labs all over the Commonwealth Virginia. However, the 45 presumptive positive and confirmed cases reported by the VDH as of Sunday, March 15 are spread out in the following areas:
- Ten in Fairfax County
- Eight in James City County
- Eight in Arlington County
- Five in Loudoun County
- Four in Virginia Beach City
- Three in Prince William County
- Two in Alexandria City
- One in Spotsylvania County
- One in Prince Edward County
- One in Hanover County
- One in Chesterfield County
- One in Harrisonburg City
Gov. Ralph Northam has scheduled a news conference for 3 p.m. on Sunday to discuss additional measures to combat the coronavirus after VDH and the Peninsula Health District announced the first death in Virginia related to the coronavirus.
“Again, I urge Virginians: take this seriously,” Northam announced on Saturday. “Take basic health precautions, avoid large gatherings, telework if possible, and stay home if you are sick. That will stop the virus from spreading.”
In order to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends the public take the following safety measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (and help children do the same) after coughing or sneezing, before and after caring for someone who is sick, before preparing foods, and before eating. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact (such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils) with people who are sick. Close contact is considered being within six feet of someone who is ill for 15 minutes or more.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
- Stay home and avoid non-essential travel when you are sick, except when you need to get medical care. If you seek medical attention, call your doctor’s office or medical facility before you go.
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