News to Know: As COVID-19 continues to spread, here’s everything you need to know

News to Know: As COVID-19 continues to spread, here’s everything you need to know
To make it easier to stay up to date, NBC12 put everything you need to know in one place. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT/AP) - As the coronavirus continues to dominate headlines, NBC12 put everything you need to know in one place to make it easier to stay up to date.

What’s happening in Virginia?

While Virginia’s COVID-19 metrics have been steadily improving, with daily case totals, hospitalizations, deaths, and percentage positivity all decreasing, Gov. Ralph Northam said his administration needs more time to be able to further evaluate the data.

However, while he announced no date for Phase 3 to begin, he did outline what Phase 3 will mean for Virginia businesses.

To start, he explained that Phase 3 will encourage Virginians to follow many of the same guidelines that have been recommended for Virginians throughout the pandemic, including:

  • Virginia’s ‘Safer at Home’ order asking people throughout the commonwealth to stay at home when possible, especially if vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19
  • The commonwealth’s recommendation for people to continue to telework if at all possible to reduce exposure to the virus
  • Executive Order 63, the face-covering mandate, will stay in effect

For more on Phase Three, click here.

Where are all the cases?

Officials with the Virginia Department of Health are actively updating their website with information on the number of cases - and where they are located. On Thursday, officials reported more than 56,000 COVID-19 positive tests, more than 1,500 deaths and more than 5,000 hospitalizations throughout the state.

The Virginia Department of Health announced it will now count the number of positive virus tests instead of the number of people who test positive.

That means if one person is tested three-times and all three tests come back positive, it counts as three instead of how the numbers were being counted before, which would have only been one because it was a single patient.

How Many Deaths?

As of June 18, the Virginia Department of Health was reporting 1,586 deaths in the state, but regional health districts were reporting more. Numbers are only updated by VDH once a day at 9 a.m.

The first death in Virginia was reported on March 14 and there have been more than 50 deaths in Henrico, many of which were residents at a long-term care rehab facility.

On Saturday, March 28, a central Virginia health department announced the first COVID-19-related death in the Petersburg area.

Reopening Virginia - Phase Two

Phase Two guidelines are as follows:

  • Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.
  • Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.
  • The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.

Phase Two guidelines for specific sectors can be found here. Phase One guidelines sectors are available here. Find even more information on the Forward Virginia plan here.

Do I Need to Wear a Mask?

Yes. Governor Ralph Northam announced a statewide mask mandate that began Friday, May 29. The mandate requires anyone in an indoor public space to wear a face mask.

A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana.

Under the Governor’s executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:

  • Personal care and grooming businesses
  • Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retailers including grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Food and beverage establishments
  • Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open
  • Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas
  • State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services
  • Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes

Will the mask requirement be enforced?

“The criminal code is not the place you want this enforced. There are tremendous equity issues with enforcing this that we’re cognitive of and there are very practical issues of our police and sheriffs had to enforce this. So we’ve taken that off the table,” said Clark Mercer, Northam’s Chief of Staff.

VDH has the power to enforce violations through a court order but hopes it doesn’t need to.

“We hope and expect Virginians will work together to comply with these important guidelines — and we have an enforcement mechanism in place should egregious violations occur,” said a VDH official in a statement.

Reopening Schools

Governor Ralph Northam announced all public and private schools will reopen for students for the 2020-2021 year but says “the experience will look different.”

The Phase 3 of schools reopening will allow schools to shift to in-person learning for all students, with social distancing guidelines, such as staggered schedules or class schedules that are a blend of in-person and remote. Under the Phase 3 guidelines, schools will need to keep student desk and work stations 6-feet apart, stagger the use of communal spaces, like cafeterias, and offer remote instruction options for students with health challenges.

What’s going on with the IRS stimulus check?

Government relief checks began arriving in Americans’ bank accounts in April as the economic damage to the U.S. from the coronavirus piled up.

Paper checks have also started to be sent out and will go out to recipients based on income ranges. You can find a full schedule, HERE.

The Treasury also says that Social Security beneficiaries who typically do not file a tax return will automatically receive the $1,200 payment.

Haven’t gotten it yet though? People can now track the date their COVID-19 relief payment scheduled to be deposited into their bank account or mailed to them.

What’s Happening Nationally?

The number of deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. has fallen in recent weeks to the lowest level since late March, even as states increasingly reopen for business. But scientists are deeply afraid the trend may be about to reverse itself.

As the race intensifies for a vaccine against the new coronavirus, rich countries are rushing to place advance orders for the inevitably limited supply to guarantee their citizens get immunized first — leaving significant questions about whether developing countries will get any vaccines in time to save lives before the pandemic ends.

 If you go by a COVID-19 model often cited by the White House, there will be an upswing in the U.S. daily death toll this fall. A mix of early re-openings and disregard for personal safety measures has the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation increasing its projections.

Flattening the Curve

Health officials continue to urge citizens to social distance and stay home in hopes of “flattening the curve” of the virus.

The goal is to keep the apex curve below hospital capacity.
The goal is to keep the apex curve below hospital capacity. (Source: Gray Television)

While letting the virus spread rapidly could shorten the duration of the pandemic, it could also strain hospitals. The goal is to keep the apex of the curve below hospital capacity.

How can we prevent the spread?

To help your shopping, the Environmental Protection Agency has expanded its list of disinfectants that have qualified for use against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. The list contains nearly 200 additional products, including 40 new products that went through the agency’s expedited review process.

But in the end, hand washing and social distancing (staying at home) is your best bet!

Trump says his administration and the CDC is encouraging many Americans to wear face masks in public. The new guidance is raising concern that it could lead to a sudden run on masks. Some in the U.S. already have begun acquiring or creating face masks of their own even before this week.

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

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.

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. Patients will be further screened to see if the test is able to be administered.

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.

Is there a cure for coronavirus?

No. That’s why health officials say social distancing is the only line of defense right now. However, clinical trials for a vaccine and other treatments are underway, including two at VCU Health.

Still have questions? Here are some more answers.

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