COVID-19 cases in Virginia climb to 114; first case reported in southwest Virginia

'Our health is in your hands. Know the signs and symptoms.'
Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak
Posted at 11:50 AM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 15:25:45-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia health officials said Friday that there are now cases of COVID-19 in all parts of the Commonwealth.

"Among the cases reported is a case in southwest Virginia, so now every region of the Commonwealth has at least one case of COVID-19," Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said during a Friday news briefing on the outbreak.

Oliver said that 114 people have tested positive for the virus, which is up from 94 Thursday.

"That's 10 more cases that have been counted through our state lab," Oliver said. "And there will be others that will probably be at it from the private labs."

In addition, Oliver said that 35 tests are still being processed, "so the case count will go up."

Oliver said 20 people remain hospitalized and two COVID-19-related deaths have been reported.

"We do not have a medicine for COVID-19. We do not have a vaccine for COVID-19," Oliver said. "The only thing we have to prevent the spread of this disease is social distancing., so we need to all do that."

Officials said Thursday they were seeing "distinct clusters" of coronavirus cases in the state.

"We have at this point distinct clusters and a few geographic areas in the state," Dr. Lilian Peake, a state epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), said. "And so we are at a level where we're seeing local transmission in Virginia."

Those clusters include 19 cases in James City County, 12 in Prince William County, 17 in Arlington County and 16 in Fairfax County.

Officials said 2,325 people have been tested for coronavirus in Virginia.

State lab has 'adequate supplies' today

Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services Director Dr. Denise Toney said the state lab has been actively training our workforce as well as additional workers since the outbreak began.

"So at the present time, I do not feel that staffing or laboratory personnel is a rate-limiting factor for our ability to respond to the testing that's approved by the Virginia Department of Health for us to provide support for," Toney said.

However, Toney acknowledged that lab supplies, like the collection swabs used to collect specimens, may be in short supply in the weeks to come.

"I think Virginia has been very proactive in getting our orders placed as timely and as quickly as we can so that we have been able to maintain the capacity we need to respond to all the testing requests that have been approved by the Virginia Department of Health," Toney said.

Toney said the state lab has "adequate supplies" for testing at present.

"What I can't say is in a couple of days that we might also have, again be in a position where we are finding ourselves having difficulties and providing or getting reagents it is changing daily," Toney said. "And as these supplies are being distributed across the nation, it can change."

Northam: 'Our health is in your hands'

"This pandemic is affecting everyone's lives," Gov. Ralph Northam said. "It is forcing changes in people's routines. And for many people, it is affecting their jobs and their income. We are doing everything that we can to help people."

Northam urged Virginians to take the outbreak seriously.

"I want to reiterate the need for every single one of us to take social distancing measures to slow the spread of this virus," Northam said. "There is evidence of community transmission in the northern and central regions of the state and in the Peninsula. infectious diseases do not respect boundaries. All people within these areas should remain vigilant."

Northam said all Virginians should "practice individual prevention and control measures."

"Our health is in your hands," Northam said. "Know the signs and symptoms. If you're sick enough to seek testing, you are sick enough to stay home for any reason other than to get medical care."

Northam urged those who are sick to stay home since those people can still transmit the virus.

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • 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.