Northam to detail phase 1 guidelines for reopening Virginia Monday

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Posted at 4:12 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 18:33:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will outline guidelines for phase one of the plan to reopen the Commonwealth during a new briefing Monday.

"This is a chart of our daily cases and our cumulative cases," Northam said during a Friday briefing updating his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. "As you can see, the daily case number is rising -- that's the blue graph on the top, but not drastically. And that is good news. We hope that soon we'll see that line go down and not up. The bottom line, the orange line, is our daily cases... It fluctuates a bit, but it is remaining fairly flat. And we would certainly like to see that diminishing over the next days to weeks."

Northam said hospitalization rates in the state remain steady.

"The big picture is that we are making progress," Northam said. "We've said from the beginning that our goal was to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. We have done that. We said from the beginning, we need a consistent supply of PPE. We have gotten that. We are testing dramatically more people... Everyone wants to know what comes next. We will talk more about that on Monday."

Northam said Virginians should be mindful that phase one for some states that have started to reopen "looks a lot like where Virginia is right now."

"For example, some states' phase one opens beaches to exercise. We've had that from the start," Northam said. "And when other states talk about how their phase one includes elective surgeries, we're doing that starting today."

Northam said he would outline those specific guidelines for Virginia's phase one during Monday's briefing.

"We'll also talk more about the data we're using to inform those decisions," Northam said.

Northam: Virginia has made 'tremendous progress' in COVID-19 testing

Dr. Karen Remley, a former Virginia State Health Commissioner picked to co-lead the COVID-19 working group formed last week, provided a comprehensive update on the state’s testing capacity.

Officials said they are now testing around 5,000 people a day and expect to increase that by another 3,000 next week when contracts with three private labs will begin.

However, officials are trying to get to 10,000 tests per day to begin the reopening process.

RELATED: CBS 6 Problem Solvers Investigation finds Virginia tied for the second-lowest rate of testing in the country.

Officials also explained Friday's testing numbers, which showed 15,000 tests new tests, compared with Thursday's numbers, and much larger than the 5,000 average.

They say 10,000 of those are older tests and are a result of how they’re changing they way they report tests going forward.

Previously, one person would be reported as one test even if they were tested four times over the life of the virus. Now each test will stand alone.

The health department has always been tracking that information and today split up and added those to the total tested figure.

Officials said other states have been doing it this way and it will give them a better picture of the percent of positive tests, which is one of the metrics they need to hit to reopen.

Northam said Virginia has "made tremendous progress" when it comes to COVID-19 testing capability.

"On Wednesday we tested more than 5,000 people -- our highest one day number ever," Northam said. "Yesterday, we grew that number to another new record testing more than 5,800 people. That's around a 15 percent increase in one day."

Officials also announced they are expanding their criteria of who can get tested.

"We're encouraging our clinicians across the state to test anybody who's symptomatic," Remley said. "Or if a healthcare provider deems appropriate, to test someone that might be prioritized who's asymptomatic, but you could imagine could be a close contact with someone who is. Or has a very high risk and is undergoing a procedure."

Additionally, Northam said another key component for reopening is maintaining a steady supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.

Northam said three machines from the federal government will be ready next week to decontaminate up to 240,000 masks a day.

"These systems have multiple units that are each the size of a story container and can clean up to 80,000 masks per day using a hydrogen peroxide vapor," Northam said. "PPE can be decontaminated and reused 20 times without degrading performance. This will be a big help to our medical facilities and our first responders."

The first unit is being built in Blacksburg and will be shared with West Virginia and Tennessee, the governor said.

As of Friday morning, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 16,901 cases of COVID-19. This is an increase of 1,005 from Thursday.

105,645 tests have been reported. This is an increase of 14,805 from Thursday.
581 people have died from the virus. This is an increase of 29 from Thursday.

There have been 216 outbreaks of COVID-19 across Virginia. This is an increase of 10 from Thursday. The majority of outbreaks continues to be in long-term care facilities, a total of 132 Friday. This is an increase of 12 from Thursday.

Friday also marks the first day the VDH is breaking down cases in Virginia to the zip code level. Prior to that, cases had been broken down by health district or locality.

In terms of the impact of COVID-19 cases on Virginia’s hospitals, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported Friday that 1,431 patients are currently hospitalized. This is a decrease of 119 from Thursday.

  • 2,196 people have been treated and discharged from hospital. This is an increase of 92 from Thursday.
  • 5,181 beds are available in the state. This is an increase of 82 from Thursday.
  • 20% of ventilators in the state are in use. This is a decrease of 1% from Thursday.

VHHA also reported two hospitals are “experiencing difficulty in obtaining or replenishing PPE [personal protective equipment] in the next 72 hours”, while one hospital is “experiencing difficulty in obtaining or replenishing other medical supplies in the next 72 hours”. This is unchanged from Thursday.

For a further breakdown of thecurrent COVID-19 numbers in Virginia click here.

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.