Virginia COVID-19 cases rise by 1,005, at a slightly higher rate – WHSV

RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — As of Tuesday, May 19, Virginia has had 32,145 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

That’s a rise of 1,005 cases since Monday, alongside 6,598 newly reported tests, which comes out to 15.2% of the newest tests coming back positive – a a higher proportion than the current state average, showing a bump back up.

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 in the data over week and 2-week spans.

From Friday to Saturday, there were 1,011 new cases reported in Virginia, followed by a rise of 705 from Saturday to Sunday, and 752 (at a 9.9% positivity rate) from Sunday to Monday, before the 1,005 (at a 15.2% positivity rate) from Monday to Tuesday.

So far in May, on an overall “trend” level, cases have generally been increasing anywhere from 500 to 1,000 cases a day, but testing has significantly increased day by day, so the moving 7-day average, which tracks the number of cases confirmed as a ratio of the amount of testing, has fallen, with Virginia on the downward side of “the curve” now.

That 7-day average is key to Governor Ralph Northam and his administration’s decisions moving forward on when the commonwealth will enter Phases 2 and 3 of reopening, as well as, on a local level, if any locality may have to face increased restrictions.

As Virginia’s testing capacity has ramped up, with more community testing offered by local health districts, state health officials have said the goal isn’t to widely increase testing numbers but to focus on getting tests to the people and areas in most need of them, with at-risk communities identified by the state health department.

Virginia has been meeting the governor’s benchmark of steady PPE supplies and open hospital capacity for around two weeks now (though not at nursing homes), with 4,411 hospital beds available and no Virginia hospitals reporting any supply problems.

The commonwealth increased from around 2,000 tests a day in late April to the 5,000 range in the start of May, and now seems to be more steadily hitting anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000. Dr. Karen Remley, head of Virginia’s testing task force, has said the goal for Phase 1 is around 10,000 tests a day.

As testing increases, the rate of tested Virginians who received positive results has been slowly but surely dropping.

Statewide case totals and testing numbers as of May 19

By May 19, the Virginia Department of Health had received reports of 30,539 confirmed and 1,606 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 224,991 total tests administered in Virginia, which included 23,808 antibody tests (The Dept. of Health announced last Thursday that they would start breaking testing data down by diagnostic and antibody tests, following criticism for initially reporting the two together.)

From Sunday to Monday, 7,568 new tests were reported to the health department, followed by 6,598 newly reported tests from Monday to Tuesday.

Overall, considering testing numbers and positive results, about 14.3% of Virginians who have been tested have received positive results. At the start of May, that percentage was standing steadily around 17%, but with increased testing, it’s come down over time. It looks a little different on local levels, as outlined below, though.

That number’s average over a week-long span is critical to reopening plans, Gov. Northam has said, and the local version of that 7-day average is why Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Accomack County did not enter Phase 1.

At this point, 3,904 Virginians have been hospitalized due to the disease caused by the virus, and at least 1,041 have died of causes related to the disease.

The hospitalization and death numbers are 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, which then report it to the state health department.

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.

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.

Where are our local cases?

According to the Virginia Department of Health’s May 19 breakdown, 224,991 tests have been run for the virus in Virginia, with 32,145 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 19. You can find the breakdown for the entire state in the chart at the bottom of this article.

Central Shenandoah
• Augusta County – 87 (+2 from Monday)
• Buena Vista – 11 (+2 from Monday)
• Harrisonburg – 647 (+14 from Monday)
• Highland County – 2
• Lexington – 6
• Rockbridge County – 13 (+2 from Monday)
• Rockingham County – 401 (+4 from Monday)
• Staunton – 32 (+1 from Monday)
• Waynesboro – 28 (+4 from Monday)
Outbreaks: 13, with 4 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: 5,042
Local percent positive: 24.3%

Lord Fairfax
• Clarke County – 19 (+1 from Monday)
• Frederick County – 223 (+6 from Monday)
• Page County – 165 (+4 from Monday)
• Shenandoah County – 329 (+10 from Monday)
• Warren County – 103 (+4 from Monday)
• Winchester – 96 (+12 from Monday)
Outbreaks: 15, with 7 in long-term care facilities, 3 in healthcare settings, and 5 in congregate settings
Total tests: 2,536
Local percent positive: 36.8%

Thomas Jefferson
• Albemarle County – 141 (+2 from Monday)
• Charlottesville – 72
• Fluvanna County – 82
• Greene County – 19
• Louisa County – 60
• Nelson County – 13 (+1 from Monday)
Outbreaks: 6, with 4 in long-term care facilities, 1 in a correctional facility, and 1 in a congregate setting
Total tests: 6,548
Local percent positive: 5.9%

Rappahannock Rapidan
• Culpeper County – 452 (+64 from Monday)
• Fauquier County – 243 (+20 from Monday)
• Madison County – 27 (+3 from Monday)
• Orange County – 67 (+7 from Monday)
• Rappahannock County – 12
Outbreaks: 5, with 1 in a healthcare setting and 4 in congregate settings
Total tests: 4,612
Local percent positive: 17.4%

Local outbreaks

As numbers have climbed in parts of the Shenandoah Valley, much of the increase has been attributable to outbreaks within particular facilities. By May 19, the Central Shenandoah Health District had identified 13 outbreaks and the Lord Fairfax Health District had 15.

Health department officials have not specified the majority of the locations of our outbreaks, because the Virginia Department of Health has interpreted Virginia code as treating facilities the same as “persons,” meaning their anonymity has to be protected. So information about outbreaks is only released to the public if a facility grants permission for that to be released.

Of the outbreaks in our area, several have been confirmed at long-term care centers, including at Accordius Health Harrisonburg, where 22 patients died of COVID-19; here” target=”_blank”>Skyview Springs, where there have been 16 confirmed deaths; Ritenour Rest Home in Staunton, where Augusta Health has confirmed a “COVID situation” but no exact numbers have been provided; and three outbreaks in Shenandoah County, including one at an unnamed nursing home and two at unnamed assisted living facilities.

The largest of those outbreaks was the one at Accordius Health Harrisonburg, where 81 residents and 12 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in April. By Tuesday, May 5, the facility confirmed 22 deaths due to coronavirus. By a little later in May, the large majority of patients had recovered from the virus.

In Page County, the outbreak at Skyview Springs Rehab resulted in 59 residents and 23 staff members testing positive for the virus. By May 13, here” target=”_blank”>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 was 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 were at businesses, two at assisted living facilities, and one at a nursing home.

Outbreaks have also been confirmed at New Market Poultry, the Harrisonburg Men’s Diversion Center, with at least 25 positive cases, and LSC Communications, which had at least six cases by the end of April but then stopped providing updates on their employee hotline so that media outlets would not have access to the information, which was not publicly provided.

Also, 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.

None of the other Shenandoah Valley poultry plants have released any information about COVID-19 cases to the public, though 18 workers tested positive at the Pilgrim’s Pride in Moorefield and Cargill in Dayton has confirmed the death of one employee due to COVID-19 – though never any information on the number of cases at the facility.

Poultry plants and other meat processing facilities have been hotspots for the virus across the country and a focus of Gov. Northam’s in Virginia. State health commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver has also referenced the situation at poultry plants in Harrisonburg leading to a disproportionate number of cases among the Latino community in the Shenandoah Valley, though, again the facilities themselves have released no information publicly.

Many of the local outbreaks that do not have confirmed locations 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.

Hospitalizations

Of the state’s 3,904 total hospitalizations, at least 94 have been in the Central Shenandoah Health District. Of those, 4 have been in Augusta County, 1 in Buena Vista, 46 in Harrisonburg, 39 in Rockingham County, 3 in Staunton, and 1 in Waynesboro.

In the Lord Fairfax Health District, there have been at least 88 hospitalizations. Thirty of those have been in Shenandoah County and 19 in Page County.

Deaths

As far as deaths, there have been 12 reported in Shenandoah County, 17 in Page County, one in Augusta County, 21 in Harrisonburg, and five in Rockingham County.

Deaths, like all health department data, are reported by a person’s listed residence.

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 delays that have often been seen 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. Some people have accused medical facilities of artificially inflating death tolls by doing that, but it’s the same process by which flu deaths are reported every year.

West Virginia updates

In the part of West Virginia we cover, there have been 6 confirmed cases in Grant County, 31 confirmed cases in Hardy County, and 5 confirmed cases in Pendleton County.

Recovery

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 19, at least 4,271 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 1,497.

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

Most of Virginia officially entered Phase 1 of Gov. Northam’s plan to gradually reopen the state on May 15, but 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, no longer applies in its original form as businesses originally deemed non-essential begin gradually reopening, but the 10-person gathering limit is still in place and still enforceable.

Executive Order 55, the ‘Stay at Home’ order signed by Northam on March 30, is now a ‘Safer at Home’ order, instructing all Virginians to continue staying home as the safest way to prevent COVID-19’s spread and specifically telling Virginians vulnerable to the virus to stay home except for essential needs.

Virginia’s state of emergency runs until June 10.

The Virginia Supreme Court’s judicial emergency, which suspended all non-essential, non-emergency court hearings, will expire on May 17 and court hearings across most of Virginia will resume on Monday, May 18.

DMV offices in Virginia remain closed until Monday, when they will begin gradually reopening by starting with 9 customer service centers across the state open by appointment only for specific reasons. 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. You can learn more about what police enforcement of Northam’s executive orders looks like here.

Virginia’s local elections in May and the primaries in June have each been postponed by two weeks. Virginia officials are encouraging all voters to request absentee ballots.

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