RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - City and county leaders in Central Virginia have declared local states of emergency as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to rise. Officials confirmed there are currently 30 cases throughout the commonwealth - up from 17 on Thursday.
Mayor Levar Stoney declared a state of emergency in the city of Richmond.
“In response to a challenge that knows no city or county borders, our Central Virginia region has appropriately consolidated resources and knowledge,” Mayor Stoney said. “This is an unprecedented display of regional unity, and I’m grateful for our neighbors’ organization, coordination and collaboration, which will keep our region informed, aware and prepared.”
Mayor Stoney reviewed steps recommended by public health officials to minimize the potential for a community spread such as avoiding large or mass gatherings, practice social distancing and following common sense, personal hygiene protocols.
The city maintains and updates a web page that residents can access for the most up to date information.
“We are blessed with the phenomenal healthcare infrastructure. We have three top-notch healthcare systems who are more than equipped to provide the kind of supportive care that is going to save lives here in the region,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Director, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts.
The leaders say since the virus knows no city or county borders, they need to work together, regionally, to make sure local government and hospitals continue to operate smoothly.
“In Henrico, we are monitoring the situation closely and are ready to do whatever is necessary to address whatever threat this pandemic poses,” said Dan Schmitt, Henrico County Board of Supervisors.
Leaders of the counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Henrico and Hanover also declared a state of emergency.
“We are aware that we want our citizens to be able to maintain a lifestyle and we recognize that there are certain citizen groups that are more at risk than other groups. We want our folks not to be engaged in an alarmist perspective but a perspective of being well informed about the issues and the potential risks they face,” said Leslie Haley, Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors.
According to Va. Code § 44-146.21, the emergency status makes it easier for local governments to protect the health and safety of persons and property as well as provide emergency assistance if it becomes necessary.
“These declarations will enable us working in concert with the state government to act swiftly and responsibly to Marshall resources and they will enable us to work collaboratively to address the needs of our communities as COVID-19 evolves in our region,” said Stoney.
Shortly after local state of emergencies were declared, Governor Ralph Northam announced all K-12 public school systems to close for a minimum of two weeks.
“I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus,” he said. “This is a fluid and fast-changing situation. We will do everything possible to ensure that students who rely on school nutrition programs continue to have access to meals, and that the disruption to academics is as minimal as possible.”
This comes after Northam declared a state of emergency Thursday for all of Virginia.
Officials expect the cases to continue to rise sharply, but Northam said the pandemic will not cripple the commonwealth.
On Friday Northam met with several medical personnel to get their insight on what they’re seeing coming into their emergency rooms.
"This is not something that's going to go away overnight,” Northam said.
“I think it’s important to reassure the public that a majority of individuals who do come down with this illness will do just fine,” said Tina Latimer, MD, Director of Emergency Services for Bon Secours Mercy Health.
However, medical providers said they’re seeing an uptick in the number of people thinking they have the virus.
“We’re seeing a lot of people walking into our emergency departments and primary care centers thinking I need to be tested and they’re not meeting any of the required screening criteria or they have very low-risk flu like symptoms,” said one medical provider.
As a way to “flatten the curve”, Northam is now looking into opportunities for Telehealth; a way of caring for patients remotely.
“Being able to talk to individuals [where] they don’t have to leave their home, be able to kind of eye ball them and answer their questions,” Northam said. “So lots of opportunities.”
Telehealth is a topic President Donald Trump also announced when declaring a national emergency Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Northam and medical staff are encouraging people to stay home if they're sick, but if their symptoms get worse, go to a hospital. The problem many of these hospitals are facing is a limited availability of coronavirus tests.
“A lot of people are going home and not being tested,” said Leigh Sewell, CEO of Richmond Community Hospital. “I think if there were more tests available I think that would probably change.”
On Thursday, Northam announced the Commonwealth had 500-600 test kits, with multiple swabs in each kits.
Northam’s administration is working with area universities like VCU to try and develop test kits within Virginia to expedite the process. Currently, the kits are coming from C-D-C and patients have to wait roughly 3-5 days for results.
“At the end of the day we just want to make sure we can keep Virginians as safe as we can,” Northam said.
Trump also announced roughly a half-million test kits would become available as soon as next week with locations announced as soon as Sunday night.
The Presidents is also working to get drive-through test locations up and running in high outbreak areas.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has confirmed that there are a total of 30 coronavirus cases in Virginia.
As the virus continues to spread around the globe, here is a look at the numbers. The table below shows all confirmed coronavirus cases, recovery numbers and deaths, by country.
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
Currently, there are two main reasons someone would be tested for the coronavirus: having symptoms or exposure to an infected person.
The main symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. These look a lot like the flu and the common cold, so it takes a physician to determine if testing for the virus is necessary.
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.
This is a developing story, stay with us for the latest.
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