RICHMOND, Va. — There are now more than 3,000 positive cases of coronavirus in Virginia.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has advised all Virginians to wear a mask when they have to leave their homes for an essential trip to help curb the spread of the virus.
The Virginia Department of Health reports 3,333 positive COVID-19 cases and 63 deaths in the commonwealth.
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus cases in the Commonwealth of Virginia:
- Stay-at-home order issued
- Major Disaster Declaration Declared
- Virginia/FEMA assisting the homeless population with shelter, food, etc.
- All Virginia schools remain closed for the remainder of the school year
- Non-essential businesses were ordered to close
- Resident aged 65+ asked to self-quarantine
- Gatherings of more than 10 people statewide are banned
- Virginia under a State of Emergency
- Absentee ballot encouraged for May primary, registration deadline Apr. 28
The highest concentration of cases remains Fairfax County, where more than 500 cases have been reported so far.
Help for the Homeless
Gov. Northam said hotel vouchers are being provided for the commonwealth’s homeless population. Northam's staffer added that 500 hotels with over 37,000 rooms available answered the call to house the 1,500 homeless Virginians in need.
He said FEMA is assisting with food, cleaning supplies and medical attention for homeless Virginians.
Additional Care Sites
Northam said, after working with the Army Corps of Engineers to find alternative sites for care, a set of final recommendations have been approved.
Three locations have received final approval, Northam said, and construction is expected to be ready in time for the Commonwealth’s surge, which is expected in May.
Northam identified the three locations as:
- The Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va. with 315 acute, 510 non-acute beds.
- Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton, Va. with 360 acute, 580 non-acute beds.
- Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Va. with 432 acute, 758 non-acute beds.
So far, contracts on these locations have been completed. Designs and construction are in progress. The Dulles site is expected the site to be ready in six weeks, helping to free up beds in hospitals, Northam said.
Northam said 114,104 people applied for unemployment last week.
"This is overwhelming our unemployment website," he said.
Because of this, the website has been updated and more call center employees have been added as the number of applicants for unemployment benefits is expected to increase in the coming weeks, Northam added. The Department of Labor is helping to provide support as well.
More Virginians are also eligible for the Medicaid program, allowing them to receive health care, Northam said.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a significant impact on Virginia’s current and upcoming fiscal budget, which begins on July 1.
Northam said while stimulus finds are going to help, they are working to address significant concerns with PPE, hospital and residents' needs.
"We have to rearrange our priorities now," Northam said.
Reduce spending, eliminating discretion spending, upcoming budget cuts and funding for new initiatives will be suspended to sure up gaps and reduce budget deficits, Northam said.
Nursing Home Outbreak
All residents at the Westminster Canterbury Richmond Retirement Community - Independent Living Facility have been tested after 16 people died and another 92 tested positive for COVID-19. Northam said working with the Department of Health of all the residents who were tested 53 of those who tested positive had no symptoms.
"This demonstrates how critically important it is to stay home," Northam added. "We all have the responsibility to stay home and slow the spread of this virus."
Northam noted that some people are not abiding by social distancing guidelines and with gatherings of more than 10 people in outdoor areas, and parties on the beaches. He is asking for the public’s cooperation.
"Do not gather in groups," Northam said.
He said he doesn't want to have to close public lands and water area because of "some irresponsible people."
Northam also encourages residents there to wear protective facial coverings -- like scarves or non-medical masks -- to reduce the risk of potentially contracting the virus while out in the public. A law on the books there against the very same action won't be enforced during the pandemic, Northam assured.
Northam issued a mandatory stay-at-home order on March 30. The order still allows residents to leave their homes for certain essential activities like shopping for food and seeking medical treatment.
"We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly," Northam said. "Our message to Virginians is clear: Stay home."
A 'New Normal'
Northam said the coronavirus outbreak has led to a "new normal" that is likely to last months, not weeks, as we have not yet seen a peak in COVID-19 cases.
On March 27, he announced that he and other governors have requested President Donald Trump to create a federal testing site for workers in the DMV regions, citing that 360,00 live in the area.
Northam said for the foreseeable future, media briefings are at 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week unless the need arises to have them more frequently.
"This is not a holiday. This is not a vacation. Please stay home," Northam said.
Northam ordered all public schools to close through the end of the academic school year after he previously ordered a two-week school closure.
Additionally, Northam announced that until April 27, non-essential businesses must close.
Restaurants can continue to provide carry out, delivery and drive-through services.
Essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks remain open with social distancing practices in place.
Northam urged residents to abide by CDC guidelines, continue to practice social distancing and wash their hands regularly.
"If you don't abide by our guidelines, you are not only putting yourself at risk, you are putting others at risk. I encourage all Virginians to abide by our guidelines," Northam said.
Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner for Public Health in Virginia said on March 28 the state prioritizing health care workers for testing, as well as testing in areas where there have been clusters of cases.
Northam said the state asked prosecutors and judges to "highly consider" options other than facility incarceration, such as electronic home monitoring.
The Virginia Department of Corrections also suspended in-person visitation at state facilities as well as transfers and intake from local and regional jails.
Beyond working with correctional facilities and jails, Northam announced that the commonwealth is working on extending attendance flexibility measures for child care centers and schools so they can be adequately refunded.
On March 18, Northam said the commonwealth was working with hospitals and federal agencies in preparation for further coronavirus impact. During that announcement, Northam said that Virginia has roughly 2,000 ICU hospital beds ready and that the commonwealth is working with six other health care coalitions to provide additional supplies and ventilators.
For May elections, Virginia voters are highly encouraged to fill out absentee ballots in an effort to protect voter health. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 28 and voters must check off box 2A to list why they are requesting absentee.
Motor vehicle offices are closed to the public during the State of Emergency, Northam explained.
The governor encourages residents to help the elderly and those in need at this time. Meanwhile, people over 65 years old are being asked to self-quarantine and stay home for their safety, Northam said.
Northam also addressed discrimination and misinformation against the Asian American community amid coronavirus concerns. The governor directed Virginians to find factual information on the outbreak on the VDH website or to call 1-877-ASK-VDH3.
What precautions should you take?
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Check the status of the virus in your state with your state health department's websites by tapping below: