Governor Northam declares state of emergency due to coronavirus

Posted at 2:21 PM, Mar 12, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam has declared a State of Emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 17 presumptive positive or confirmed coronavirus cases in Virginia. Two of those cases includes two Virginians who tested positive in Texas.

“This declaration implements our longstanding emergency operations plan. While Virginia has been thoroughly planning for weeks and has adequate funding to address the situation. This declaration will give us increased flexibility to ease regulatory requirements and procurement rules,” Northam said in a press conference Thursday.

While the number has increased, Northam says there is still no sign of community spread, which is when they’re not able to figure out how someone got sick.

Officials say all cases are either linked to international travel or contact with someone already infected.

The state of emergency was one of several steps Northam said he was taking to address the coronavirus.

Other steps include barring out of state travel for state employees for the next 30 days and canceling all specially scheduled state conferences and large events for the next 30 days

His economic team is also look at ways to mitigate any impact the virus may have on business in Virginia.

Northam encouraged Virginians to avoid large crowds, calling the coronavirus pandemic "fluid and changing rapidly."

“Virginians should know that we have longstanding plans in place to deal with pandemics. We have trained for them and we are ready for this,” he stated.

In an update to lawmakers Thursday, State epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said the state lab has capacity for between 500-600 tests.

Northam said the state has enough testing kits for now, but the CDC supply chain is limited.

“We are looking to develop our own tests,” said Northam. “There are also private labs in Virginia authorized to run these tests. While the state is not involved in that work, we understand the private labs are upgrading their capabilities to do more testing. We’re watching the experiences of other states, including the use of drive-thru testing and we’re considering that option as well in the Commonwealth.”

Stay with CBS 6 for the latest on this developing story.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions.

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

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

Virginia health officials reminds individuals to take 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.