By Carol Vaughn —
COVID-19-related restrictions in the Eastern region of Virginia will remain in place at least through the Labor Day weekend, Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press conference Tuesday.
“Overall, Virginians are doing a good job of keeping this curve flat,” Northam said, showing reporters charts of case rates.
Statewide case counts dropped in June, then rose again in July, driven in part by an increase in cases in the Eastern region.
If the numbers continue to trend in the right direction, the Eastern region could join the rest of the state and move fully into Phase 3 of recovery sometime after the holiday, according to Northam.
The seven-day percent positivity for COVID-19 PCR tests statewide stands just below 7%.
“When we started a couple of months ago, we were well over 20%,” Northam said, adding, “We’d obviously like to see it lower than 7, but we haven’t seen sharp spikes statewide, which is a good thing.”
On average, 15,000 to 20,000 tests per day now are being administered in Virginia.
On the Eastern Shore, the positivity rate was 2.2% as of Tuesday, with 11,477 total PCR tests administered to date.
Accomack County has had 1,148 cases, 87 hospitalizations, and 19 deaths reported since the pandemic began.
Northampton County has had 304 cases, 49 hospitalizations, and 29 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
In both counties, the majority of cases were reported in May and June.
By region, new cases in Northern Virginia are trending slightly higher than earlier this summer, but significantly lower than early in the pandemic.
The seven-day moving average for new cases there is around 240 and the percent positivity for testing is around 6%.
The Central region has a seven-day moving average of 170 cases per day and saw a drop in percent positivity starting in early August. The figure stands at just over 7% now.
The Northwest region has around 120 new cases per day and had a percent positivity of just under 5% as of late July, with the figure inching up slightly more recently.
The Southwest region is seeing an upward trend in case numbers.
Two months ago, the average daily case number was around 80; now it is more than 220, Northam said.
The percent positivity also is increasing.
“This is especially concerning for a region where there are fewer hospitals, especially with critical care capabilities,” Northam said.
The Eastern region is averaging around 214 new cases a day, which is better than in July.
The percent positivity has come down from the mid-July spike of 12% to under 9%, “which is still higher than we’d like, but this is certainly moving in a positive direction,” according to Northam.
He said the virus “is still alive and well around the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we have to continue the guidelines and be vigilant,” especially as schools and colleges open this fall. Northam said he would make no changes in restriction levels before Labor Day.
Those restrictions in Hampton Roads include cutting off alcohol sales at restaurants at 10 p.m. and a 50% occupancy restriction on indoor dining.
Northam noted that the state saw surges in case numbers after Memorial Day and July 4th, and said, “We don’t want to repeat that as the summer draws to a close.”
“Now is the time to double down on what we know is working,” he said.
Northam urged Virginians who have not done so to download the COVIDWISE app.
The app notifies a person if he or she has come in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus who has entered that information into the app.
He also urged people to get tested if they have symptoms, think they have been exposed to someone with the virus, or need a test to go back to work.
Northam spoke about the Trump administration’s recent reclassification of teachers as critical infrastructure workers, meaning they could be expected to continue working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
“That’s the wrong thing to do, so Virginia is taking a different approach. If you are a teacher and there is a high chance you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home until you get the result, even if you don’t have symptoms,” Northam said.
Northam also announced he is extending for another 60 days driver’s license credentials due to expire by Oct. 31, as DMV offices continue to be open by appointment only.
Northam called for people at lower risk for the virus to volunteer as poll workers.
“Many poll workers are elderly, so they are at high risk for COVID-19, so we are seeing a shortage of poll workers across our state,” he said.
Volunteers may apply to be a poll worker at vote.virginia.gov
Northam said while metrics related to the virus are now “at a more acceptable range,” Virginians should not let their guard down.
“We’re still not where we need to be” in order to further ease retrictions, he said, adding, “It’s in our hands; it really is. … We could get this under control very easily if we all did the right thing.”