RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam explained why he has not issued a stay-at-home order as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealh continues to climb.
"As I've said throughout this process, we are looking at this as a very dynamic situation," Northam said during a Friday news briefing on the COVID-19 crsis. "It changes literally hourly. We monitor that and make decisions that we think are appropriate."
Northam said his current guidance of advising people to practice social distancing and to stay home if they can would continue.
"As of today, nothing has changed," Northam said. "If we need to make modifications, we will."
Northam responded directly about why he has not issued a stay-at-home order like some other governors.
"OK, we're talking semantics here," Northam said. "We're talking about how to enforce this. I, I think if you go back and listen to my comments, not only from today, but from previous days, I have said repeatedly stay at home unless it's essential that you get out."
Northam said most states are essentially advising the public to do the same thing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"If you look at whether this is a shelter at home, if it's a shutdown, it's a lockdown -- however you want to describe it... all the states are giving the same direction -- and that is to stay at home."
COVID-19 cases rise to 604 in Virginia
Officials said 144 additional people tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 1,148 people tested since Thursday's update, according numbers published by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). That brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia to 604.
Officials said 83 people remain hospitalized and 14 people have died as a result of COVID-19-related illnesses.
Additionally, new data from VDH Thursday showed the age group most affected by the coronavirus is people aged 50 to 69 years old since that group accounts for more than 36 percent of cases.
Slightly more men have been infected by the virus at 313 cases versus the 283 cases reported in women.
Officials are investigating "distinct clusters" where there is "local transmission" of the virus in Virginia.
Those clusters include 124 cases in Fairfax County, 63 in Arlington County, 55 in James City County, 44 in Prince William County, 43 in Loudon County and 29 in Virginia Beach.
New cases were reported Friday in Bristol, Galax, Greene, King Geroge, Northampton, Prince George, Roanoke City and Southampton County.
"We do not have a medicine for COVID-19. We do not have a vaccine for COVID-19," Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver previously said. "The only thing we have to prevent the spread of this disease is social distancing, so we need to all do that."
Northam: 'We're in this for the long haul -- months'
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the Commonwealth continues to see a sharp uptick in cases of COVID-19 because of increased testing capabilities.
"But we're also seeing it because this virus continues to spread," Northam previously said. "We talked about flattening the curve, but make no mistake, we are still in the early stages of that curve rising. How high and how how quickly those numbers rise is up to you and me and every single Virginian."
Northam also said the COVID-19 outbreak will be "with us for a long time. "
"Months, not weeks," the governor said. "We need to begin adjusting to that reality."
Northam said protecting the vulnerable is the responsibility of everyone.
"It is up to all of us to act responsibly and avoid crowds. We will win this fight together," Northam said. "We're in this for the long haul... We're all in this together and we're going to get through this, but it's gonna take some time."
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.