Northam updates COVID-19 as most of Virginia begins Phase One of reopening

Posted at 1:18 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 19:16:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Friday updating his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news conference comes as much of the Commonwealth began Phase One of the reopening process Friday, with the exception of northern Virginia, the City of Richmond, and Accomack County.

The latter two were granted exemptions by Northam on Thursday night. The Executive Order related to the decision noted that "the City of Richmond’s percent positivity of COVID-19 cases has failed to decrease over the past two weeks. Further, its total case count grew" and that Northam found "requests to delay entering Phase One and to remain in Phase Zero appropriate."

Friday also saw a new look to the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) COVID-19 website as the agency has changed how it counts and reports tests of COVID-19.

Officials have been criticized for the recent decision to include serological/anti-body tests in the state’s total testing numbers, but concerns have been raised about the accuracy of those tests and that "many health experts said paints an inaccurate picture of testing in the state.”

On Thursday, VDH said going forward it would break up those numbers to show both testing totals with and without antibody tests.

VDH said antibody tests make up less than 9 percent of overall tests, and when they were removed from overall tests there was no difference in overall trends.

VDH has also included a new interactive chart on its website that allows visitors to “percent positivity” metrics for each health district in Virginia. Northam has said that a 14-day decline in the percent-positivity was one of the metrics the state needed to meet in order to begin the reopening process.

Richmond officials said they requested their delay because that metric for the city had been trending up for the past two weeks:

One data point that has been removed the website, was the number of unique people tested.

Previously, VDH had reported that number alongside the total number of tests run. The difference between the two was the “unique” number represented how many people had be tested in Virginia, while the “total” number included all the tests that have been run. For example, if one person was tested four times it would only count once in the “unique” column, but it would be counted four times in the “total” column.

A representative at the COVID-19 Joint Information Center told CBS 6 said it was “temporarily removing” that statistic from the website “so that we can rework this calculation. Stratification by district and test type will be coming soon.”

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

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.