COVID-19 cases rising in central, southwest Virginia

COVID-19 cases rising in central, southwest Virginia
Governor Northam and the Virginia Emergency Support Team announced Tuesday afternoon that the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and percent positivity rate has trended upward in the past month. (Source: May 28, 2020 -- Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Northam and the Virginia Emergency Support Team announced Tuesday afternoon that the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and percent positivity rate has trended upward in the past month.

No new COVID-19 restrictions are on the horizon in Virginia, but the new case numbers aren’t great. Governor Ralph Northam said the state is preparing for whatever surge may happen through testing.

For now, Northam thinks the way to handle COVID-19 this fall and winter is by ramping up testing efforts and not shutting everything back down.

“We’re seeing rising cases in other regions,” said Northam.

During a coronavirus briefing Tuesday afternoon, Northam announced a 30% increase in testing thanks to an increased partnership with three labs.

That will increase testing capacity to 27,000 per day.

“We are one state. One commonwealth and no region is an island. We all need to step up our vigilance and our precautions,” said Northam.

The governor says there especially needs to be more vigilance heading into the holidays.

Health experts agree small household gatherings have contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“I’m not saying don’t celebrate thanksgiving but if you are planning to gather with people outside of your household think about ways to do it more safely,” said Northam.

COVID-19 cases are rising in the metro-Richmond area, as they are across the state, averaging more than a thousand per day over the last month.

That’s prompting the heightened effort to prevent outbreaks and a strain on the system while we all wait for a vaccine.

“We are ready to get that vaccine and administer it,” said Dr. Norm Oliver, State Health Commissioner. “In order to stop a pandemic we really have to do our best to increase the immunity that exists in the population. Vaccines do that. They boost immunity.”

Northam also said 100,000 tests will go to state hospitals, another 100,000 to colleges and universities, and an additional 100,000 to local health departments for community testing.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 194,912 total coronavirus cases throughout the state Tuesday, a 1,435 case increase from Monday.

The state totals stand at 3,726 deaths with 13,183 hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

Gov. Northam said in a briefing that the rise in these numbers are “very concerning because it is getting colder," and reminds Virginians to continue focusing on communications campaigns such as avoiding gatherings, washing hands and wearing face coverings.

The governor also mentioned that cases are rising in the southwest Virginia region with the percent positivity rate at 9 percent.

Local leaders in southwest Virginia are working with the governor to stress the importance of mask mandates and social distancing.

“You have done an exceptional job responding to this crisis," Gov. Northam said. "I know you’re tired, I am tired, but the new normal is still ahead of us.”

Gov. Northam announced there are contracts with 3 labs to participate in one lab network, a COVID-19 testing system.

This network will add 7,000 new tests per day by the end of the year.

The tests will arrive in Virginia and will be distributed to nursing, long term care facilities and other places that conduct testing.

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