Virginia sees jump in COVID-19 testing

Virginia sees jump in COVID-19 testing

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam's response team is explaining why the commonwealth has lagged in testing when compared to other states.

The state saw a historic increase in testing numbers Friday, jumping 15% in the last 24 hours, but a change in the methodology is behind the spike.

“You need to know the exact number of tests not the number of people who had tests," said Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

During a COVID-19 briefing, The Virginia Department of Health announced it will now count the number of virus tests administered. That’s a change. Before, if a patient was tested multiple times, which is rare, it would count as still one administered test in the state’s data. Now, each time a patient is tested, each test is counted.

“We realized for Virginia that that change in methodology made a clear sense because we want to make sure that other number that we’re reporting since so many folks are focusing on that as we move into the phases so as one of the important indicators,” said Dr. Carey.

Other states, including North Carolina, have been reporting testing numbers that way for quite some time.

Virginia now has contracts with three labs - two in the commonwealth and one in North Carolina to increase testing capacity by 3,000 per day.

“We’ve said from the very beginning we needed more PPE. We have that now. Then we said we needed more testing supplies. We have that now. Now we’re working on education and bringing people to the table,” said Dr. Karen Remley, former Virginia State Health Commissioner.

Meanwhile, the governor’s executive order keeping non-essential businesses closed is set to expire May 8, 2020. Northam said he will address that on Monday along with laying out details of the state’s re-opening.

His chief of staff said the commonwealth's re-opening will look different from others because only select businesses like salons and gyms were closed under Northam's order.

“Other states right now are starting to allow non-essential retail in their phase one to reopen. We’ve never closed them,” said Clark Mercer, Northam’s Chief of Staff.

VDH is working on finding virus tracers to staff its 35 locations. The organization has hundreds of these already dedicated to track who a positive person may have come into contact with. The hope is to hire about 1,500 in total.

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