Northam on Phase 1 reopening: At the end of the day, we want Virginians and their families to be safe

Parts of the state entered the first phase Friday of Forward Virginia, a plan to reopen the state during the coronavirus. Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County extended their reopening dates by two weeks.

“Today, Phase 1 for much of Virginia begins, that means a slight easing of restrictions,” said Gov. Ralph Northam.

Northam previously extended the executive order which restricted some non-essential businesses and other facilities to Friday, after the state showed a percentage of downward trends in positive tests.

Northam said the Virginia Department of Health had been tracking both antibody and COVID-19 tests and combined both numbers in the percent positivity.

He added after he found out Monday, he asked VDH to “disaggregate the two groups” keeping them separate.

Antibody tests or serology tests are blood tests to see if someone had the coronavirus while the COVID-19 or PCR nasal swab test checks people to see if they currently have the virus.

“We can see antibody tests made up 15,000 of the 184,00 tests we’ve done since testing,”  he said, adding it’s around 9 percent. “When we take out or antibody tests our trends remain the same”

The percent positivity rate was 13.4 percent for all tests but for just PCR tests is 15 percent and the tests are still going up, the governor said.

“As we move forward in Phase 1, I want to remind everyone that…does not mean we can behave as we used to,” he said. “This virus is still very much with us and no one should let their guard down.”

There are 28,672 positive cases of the coronavirus and 977 deaths as of Friday, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website. The African American population has 4,586 cases (23 percent) and 207 deaths (24 percent) while the Latino population has 8,466 cases (44 percent) and 76 deaths (10 percent).

Here are the local numbers:

The latest numbers of positive coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the Virginia Department of Health. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)
The latest numbers of positive coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the Virginia Department of Health. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)

As of Friday, there are a total of 20 outbreaks on the Peninsula — 8 in long-term care facilities, 9 in congregate setting like offices and apartments complexes, 1 in a health care facility, 1 in a correctional facility and another in an education facility.

Out of the total number of outbreaks, Hampton Health District has 22 positive health care workers and 3 outbreaks: 2 in congregate settings and 1 in a long-term care facility. For the rest of the Peninsula, considered the Peninsula Health District, 65 health care workers have tested positive and there are 17 outbreaks: 7 in long-term care, 7 in congregate settings, 1 in health care facility, 1 in a correctional facility and 1 in an education facility.

The VDH defines the Peninsula Health District as Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County and Hampton Health District as only Hampton.

WYDaily combined the number of health care workers who tested positive and the number of outbreaks from both districts since all the localities are considered the Peninsula.

Phase 1

  • Safer at home – especially if you are vulnerable.
  • No social gatherings of more than 10 individuals.
  • Continued social distancing.
  • Continued teleworking.
  • Face coverings recommended in public.
  • Revised business limitations.
  • Last a minimum of two weeks, up to four weeks.

Businesses

  • Non-essential retail: Open with 50 percent capacity.
  • Restaurants and beverages services: takeout and delivery options. Outdoor seating 50 percent capacity.
  • Entertainment and Amusement: Closed.
  • Fitness and Exercise: Closed, limited to outdoor fitness.
  • Beaches: Exercise and fishing only.
  • Places of worship: Drive-in services. 50 percent indoor capacity.
  • Personal grooming: Appointments only. Strict social distancing and face coverings required.
  • Private campgrounds: May open with restrictions or distance between campsites.
  • State parks: Day use, overnight in phases.
  • Child care: Open for working families.
  • Overnight summer camps: Closed.

Other updates

  • Personal Protective Equipment: $121 million contract includes $42.3 million for testing.
  • Testing capacity: Unclear. 12 free clinics plan to administer testing. Unclear where the locations are at this time.
  • Health equity task force: Increase testing testing in vulnerable populations, primarily communities of color.
  • Contact tracers: VDH received 4,000 applications for contact tracers, only plans to hire about 1,000.
  • Unsafe work environment: Employees concerned should contact the Department of Labor and Industry. Northam is working for employees who are in vulnerable populations working about going back to work.
  • COVID-19 Funds: State will distribute $650 million to localities by the first of June.
  • State finances: $1 billion loss by the end of June. ABC Stores: Increase in sales, unclear how much.
  • Voting: Fill out absentee ballots.
  • Beaches: Announcement and plans for Memorial Day is expected on Monday.
  • Staggered approach to reopening? Northam said he does not plan to “carve counties and towns” when it comes to reopening Virginia in phases and feels if he were to do so, it would just get out of hand.
  • State revenue: $700 million decrease — 80 percent is from tax withholding, 60 percent is ongoing revenues and 20 percent, sales tax, are even which is attributed online shopping compared to in-person retail shopping and food tax, restaurant purchases versus grocery store purchases.

There are now 44 positive cases of the coronavirus at Newport News Shipbuilding with 26 individuals who tested positive have been medically cleared to return to work, according to the company’s website.

Those tested for the coronavirus include both shipyard employees and non-NNS personnel such as government civilians, Navy personnel and contractors.

As of Friday, there are 19 cases in the Mid-Yard, 10 cases in Off-Yard offices, 9 cases in the North Yard and 6 in South Yard.

The Hampton VA Medical Center has 64 cases, 57 convalescent and 2 active cases and five deaths.

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