RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — As of Friday, May 15, Virginia has had 28,672 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Graphic courtesy: Virginia Department of Health
That’s a rise of 859 cases since Thursday, alongside 10,131 newly reported tests (down from high testing numbers earlier this week), which comes out to 8.5% of the newest tests coming back positive – a much lower proportion than the current state average.
At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, most parts of Virginia (excluding Northern Virginia, as well as Richmond and Accomack County after their local leaders requested delays approved by the governor) entered Phase 1 of the ‘Forward Virginia’ plan for reopening, allowing restaurants to open up outdoor seating at 50% capacity, personal grooming services to open up with many safety restrictions in place, houses of worship to operate at 50% capacity, and more business changes outlined here.
All decisions made by the governor and state officials about reopening, for Phase 1 and all future phases, are based on overall trends, which aren’t broken by a rise of statistics on one day.
So far this week, there were 989 cases reported from Sunday to Monday, 730 from Monday to Tuesday, 946 from Tuesday to Wednesday, and then 1,076 from Wednesday to Thursday. Most of those days came with increased testing and lower ‘percent positive’ rates, but Thursday brought a spike.
So far in May, though, on an overall “trend” level, daily increases in COVID-19 cases confirmed in Virginia had dropped from highs over 1,000 around the start of the month.
That drop has happened at the same time as a significant ramp-up in testing reflected on most days, so the moving 7-day average, which tracks the number of cases confirmed as a ratio of the amount of testing, has fallen, showing what appears to be the top of “the curve” behind us.
Because of that, Governor Ralph Northam and his administration determined the data metrics were met for Phase of reopening on May 15.
Virginia had been ranked among states with the lowest per capita testing throughout the pandemic, but state health officials say their goal isn’t to compete with cumulative testing numbers but to focus on getting tests to the people and areas in most need of them.
Phase 1 of reopening, which Northam has said will likely last two to four weeks, allows a number of non-essential business to open back up, with continuing restrictions to prevent a potential new surge of cases. He outlined the plans for Phase 1 in a press conference last week.
On Monday, he went into greater detail about the data metrics his team is using to make the calls on when to enter which phases, and discussed the current testing situation in Virginia.
Virginia has been meeting the benchmark of steady PPE supplies and open hospital capacity for around two weeks now, with 4,546 hospital beds available and no Virginia hospitals reporting any supply problems.
The commonwealth increased from around 2,000 tests a day to between 3,000 and 5,000 last week, and now seems to be more steadily hitting around 7,000 to 8,000. The governor has said the goal for his phased reopening plan is around 10,000 tests a day, but the increased testing has been enough to meet the state’s benchmarks on that as well.
As testing increases, the rate of tested Virginians who received positive results is slowly but surely dropping, and that percentage is being considered a major factor in Virginia plans, meeting yet another benchmark for reopening.
Statewide case totals and testing numbers as of May 15
By May 15, the Virginia Department of Health had received reports of 27,293 confirmed and 1,39 probable cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth.
“Probable” cases are cases that were diagnosed by a doctor based on symptoms and exposure without a test – also known as clinical diagnoses.
Those positive test results are out of 195,682 total tests administered in Virginia, which included about 19,000 antibody tests (The Dept. of Health announced on Thursday that they would separate out they would start breaking testing data down by diagnostic and antibody tests.)
From Sunday to Monday, nearly 10,000 new tests were reported to the health department, which marked a massive increase in testing. Prior to that, there had been an increase of 7,732 tests from Friday to Saturday and 7,005 tests from Saturday to Sunday.
From Monday to Tuesday, tests fell back to 3,481 in the day. Then, from Tuesday to Wednesday, 8,845 new tests were reported. Now, from Wednesday to Thursday, 5,467 new tests were reported to the department, falling short of the benchmarks the state administration has called for.
Overall, considering testing numbers and positive results, about 14.7% of Virginians who have been tested have received positive results. The recent increase in testing brought that percentage point down from over 17%, where it stood a week and a half ago, but it bounced slightly back up Thursday.
That number is a key to reopening on schedule, Gov. Northam has said.
At this point, 3,657 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and at least 977 have died of causes related to the disease.
The hospitalization and death numbers are the totals confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health, which are always delayed by several days due to the logistics of medical facilities reporting information to local health districts, when then report it to the state health department.
The state website shows a lot of detail by locality, including hospitalizations and deaths for each city or county, and are broken down by zip code elsewhere on the health department website.
The hospitalization numbers are cumulative — they represent the total number of people hospitalized due to the disease throughout the pandemic and not the total number currently in the hospital. For current hospitalization stats, the VHHA offers more helpful data.
Where are our local cases?
According to the Virginia Department of Health’s May 15 breakdown, 195,682 tests have been run for the virus in Virginia, with 28,672 positive results.
The department’s breakdown and location map, available to the public here, shows the number of cases confirmed each day, number of people tested, total hospitalizations, total deaths, and demographic breakdowns, as well as breakdowns by health district.
Here’s a breakdown of cases for our region as of 9 a.m. on May 15. You can find the breakdown for the entire state in the chart at the bottom of this article.
• Augusta County – 74 (+4 from Thursday)
• Buena Vista – 8
• Harrisonburg – 620 (+5 from Thursday)
• Highland County – 2
• Lexington – 5
• Rockbridge County – 10
• Rockingham County – 388 (+7 from Thursday)
• Staunton – 34 (+11 from Thursday)
• Waynesboro – 22 (+1 from Thursday)
Outbreaks: 11, with 2 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a healthcare setting, 6 in congregate settings, 1 in a correctional facility, and 1 in an educational setting
Total tests: 4,381
Local percent positive: 26.5%
• Clarke County – 17 (+1 from Thursday)
• Frederick County – 195 (+4 from Thursday)
• Page County – 145 (+2 from Thursday)
• Shenandoah County – 285 (+4 from Thursday)
• Warren County – 94 (+4 from Thursday)
• Winchester – 79 (+4 from Thursday)
Outbreaks: 15, with 7 in long-term care facilities, 3 in healthcare settings, and 5 in congregate settings
Total tests: 2,161
Local percent positive: 37.7%
• Albemarle County – 133 (+3 from Thursday)
• Charlottesville – 71 (+3 from Thursday)
• Fluvanna County – 79
• Greene County – 16
• Louisa County – 59
• Nelson County – 12
Outbreaks: 5, with 3 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a correctional facility, and 1 in a congregate setting
Total tests: 5,801
Local percent positive: 6.4%
• Culpeper County – 343 (+14 from Thursday)
• Fauquier County – 205 (+5 from Thursday)
• Madison County – 23
• Orange County – 51 (+1 from Thursday)
• Rappahannock – 11 (+1 from Thursday)
Outbreaks: 5, with 1 in a healthcare setting and 4 in congregate settings
Total tests: 3,848
Local percent positive: 16.5%
As numbers have soared in parts of the Shenandoah Valley, much of the increase has been attributable to outbreaks. By May 15, the Central Shenandoah Health District had identified 11 outbreaks and the Lord Fairfax Health District had 15.
In the Central Shenandoah Health District, the largest confirmed outbreak has been in Harrisonburg, which has the most confirmed cases in our region. At Accordius Health Harrisonburg, the Virginia Department of Health and UVA Health collaborated to test every resident and staff member, finding 81 residents and 12 staff members positive last month.
By Tuesday, May 5, the facility had confirmed 22 deaths due to coronavirus. By this week, though, there are no new active infections and 75 patients have recovered.
A separate outbreak in Harrisonburg, at the Harrisonburg Men’s Diversion Center, resulted in at least 25 positive cases, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Another involves LSC Communications, which confirmed six cases as of April 30. The health district has not publicly identified LCS as an outbreak site, but the number of cases they confirmed to employees meets the VDH definition of a congregate setting outbreak. Since that date, the company ceased providing updates on their employee hotline so that media outlets would not have access to the information.
Moving north to the Lord Fairfax Health District, in Page County, which went from 30 cases on April 23 to 100 by April 30, a large part was due to an outbreak at Skyview Springs Rehab, where 59 residents and 23 staff members tested positive for the virus.
As of May 13, here” target=”_blank”>Skyview Springs confirmed to WHSV that 16 people there had died of COVID-19-related causes.
The facility has 115 residents total.
Dr. Colin Greene, with the Lord Fairfax Health District, told WHSV on May 11 that the Skyview Springs outbreak is the only major outbreak in the Page County area.
However, he said they were monitoring five active outbreaks in Shenandoah County. Due to Virginia code preventing the identification of facilities with outbreaks, he could not identify the exact locations, but said two are at businesses and three are at long-term care facilities.
Of the long-term care outbreaks, one is at a nursing home and two are at assisted living facilities.
There’s no sure way to confirm if it’s among the outbreaks under investigation now, but New Market Poultry Products, which has more than 100 employees working on a daily basis, confirmed near the end of April that they had multiple employees test positive – though an exact number was not provided and no update has come since then.
No other facilities have publicly shared information about COVID-19 outbreaks in Shenandoah County, but Blue Ridge Hospice, while announcing a “Heroes Parade” for long-term care facilities on May 13, said that several facilities in Woodstock specifically have outbreaks of COVID-19.
Dr. Greene said the health district is working to increase the number of tests available to the overall community, as well as in the facilities with known outbreaks, with help from Gov. Northam’s nursing home task force and testing task force.
By the end of this week, he hopes to have community testing events scheduled and announced. He also said the health district will be working with teams deployed to the Shenandoah Valley in the coming days to assist with testing at poultry plants.
In the past two weeks, since April 27, cases in Page County have climbed from 87 to 129 and in Shenandoah County, from 78 to 250.
Health department officials have not specified the majority of the locations of our outbreaks, given that Virginia state code requires permission to be granted by a facility for their information to be released to the media. That;s because Virginia code treats facilities the same as “persons,” meaning their anonymity has to be protected.
Many of the local outbreaks have been identified in congregate settings, which could include workplaces, apartment complexes, churches, gyms, or any setting with a group of people in one place.
Of the state’s 3,592 total hospitalizations, at least 82 have been in the Central Shenandoah Health District. Of those, 3 have been in Augusta County, 43 in Harrisonburg, 32 in Rockingham County, 3 in Staunton, and 1 in Waynesboro.
In the Lord Fairfax Health District, there have been at least 75 hospitalizations. Twenty-four of those have been in Shenandoah County and 19 in Page County.
As far as deaths, there have been 10 reported in Shenandoah County, 16 in Page County, one in Augusta County, 21 in Harrisonburg, and two in Rockingham County.
Deaths, like all health department data, are reported by a person’s listed residence.
WHSV confirmed with Cargill, in Rockingham County, that an employee of their Dayton plant died of COVID-19. The company did not provide further details on if any outbreaks are investigation, though the situation at poultry facilities across Virginia has been a major focus of the governor’s.
Dr. Norm Oliver, the state’s health commissioner, has said that it often takes several days before local health districts are able to enter death information into the state database. Dr. Laura Kornegay, director of the Central Shenandoah Health District, told WHSV that deaths first have to be reported to them by medical facilities, which is a major cause for the delay on the numbers reported for our area.
Dr. Kornegay also explained that if someone has tested positive for COVID-19, that’s what goes on their death certificate. Those death certificates have a space to list secondary causes of death, and that’s where ongoing health issues like heart disease and cancer are listed – the same process is how flu deaths are reported.
West Virginia updates
In the part of West Virginia we cover, there have been 6 confirmed cases in Grant County, 27 confirmed cases in Hardy County, and 5 confirmed cases in Pendleton County.
Wondering about the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in Virginia? Recovery information is not required to be sent to the Department of Health, so there is no accurate way to track that data for every single confirmed case.
But there is a way to track the number of patients who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and have since been discharged – effectively tracking how many people have recovered from the most severe cases.
The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association updates their own dashboard of data each day on hospital-specific statistics, including bed availability, ventilator usage, and more. Their online dashboard indicates that, as of May 15, at least 3,805 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from the hospital.
Unlike the VDH data that reports cumulative hospitalizations, their data on hospitalizations reflects people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 (whether with confirmed or pending cases), and that number is at 1,511.
The data used by the VDH to report cumulative hospitalizations is based on information reported in hospital claims. On the other hand, the numbers reported by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association are based on a current census from hospitals, which provides a separate data set.
Timing of VDH data
The Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 website is updating with the latest statewide numbers somewhere between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. each day. In recent days, that has steadily creeped closer to 10 a.m.
The numbers that appear on that list are based on the cases that had been submitted to the department by 5 p.m. the previous day, so there is always some lag between when local health districts announce positive test results and when the department’s numbers reflect those new results.
Reporting by local health districts
Our Virginia counties are primarily served by the Central Shenandoah Health District, which covers Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge and Rockingham counties, as well as the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton and Waynesboro; and the Lord Fairfax Health District, which covers Shenandoah, Page, Frederick, Warren, and Clarke counties, as well as the city of Winchester.
The statewide situation in Virginia
As Virginia enters Phase 1 of Gov. Northam’s plan to gradually reopen the state on May 15, the commonwealth remains under a series of public health orders and executive orders designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Executive Order 53, which closed many non-essential businesses across Virginia and established Virginia’s 10-person gathering limit, is set to run until May 14, but will be amended, because Gov. Northam says the 10-person limit will continue through Phase 1.
Executive Order 55, the ‘Stay at Home’ order signed by Northam on March 30, is currently set to run through at least June 10, as it has been since its signing. It instructs all Virginians to stay home except for essential needs. However, Gov. Northam has said that will be adjusted to a ‘Safer at Home’ order as Phase 1 begins on May 15.
Virginia remains under a state of emergency until June 10.
The Virginia Supreme Court has declared a judicial emergency, which suspends all non-essential, non-emergency court hearings, and that is currently set to run through May 17.
All DMV offices in Virginia remain closed until May 18, at which point they’ll begin gradually opening, starting with 11 customer service centers in 7 of Virginia’s 8 regions (excluding northern Virginia). During the closure, Virginia State Police have not been enforcing inspections and extensions have been granted to people with expiring credentials for themselves or their vehicles.
Elective procedures and related offices, like dentists, were able to resume on May 1 after Gov. Northam lifted the public health order that initially closed them.
Of the orders in place, Executive Order 53 is enforceable by law, so someone who hosts a gathering of more than 10 people can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. And that will continue to be the case in Phase 1. You can learn more about what police enforcement of Northam’s executive orders looks like here.