Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam warned Saturday that restrictions may have to be reimplemented with rising numbers of COVID-19 infections throughout the state.
The governor took to Twitter for his message, mirroring a sentiment he shared at his last public briefing: If numbers don’t trend in the right direction, he won’t hesitate to take action.
“We will be watching the public health data closely over the weekend –– if the numbers don’t come down, we may have to take additional steps to blunt the spread of this virus,” Northam wrote on Twitter. “Wear a mask and practice physical distancing so we don’t have to move back.”
Northam previously explained rollback actions may occur on a regional basis instead of a statewide order.
One of the localities seeing an explosion of cases is nearby Danville and Pittsylvania County, for the second week labeled as one of a dozen surge areas by the Virginia Department of Health. Eight other health districts with dramatic spikes in cases are the Hampton Roads area. The remaining districts are near Charlottesville and one in Arlington.
Locally, Halifax County added 13 cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus since Thursday for a total of 123. That jump comes after a few days of only slight increases. Health officials have said there will be ups and downs in numbers over time. From a purely statistical view, that means 36 have been added in a two-week period. That’s generally the time frame health officials use to determine active cases when not knowing specific details of each case.
The same report that listed the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District as a surge area also warned Virginia is projected to have about 15,000 weekly cases — and growing — by early September. By comparison, the state added about 6,200 cases in the last seven days.
Those projections are from a model by the University of Virginia. Models, in general, are not an exact science and aren’t used to predict figure numbers. Instead models provide a look inside current data and trend possibilities.
The UVa model is now simplified with two projections: a current course and surge sceneries. The estimated 15,000 cases by September is based on the current course of Virginia. A surge would increase the number to 16,000 weekly cases.
Cellphone data indicates Virginians are increasingly returning to work and businesses almost at pre-pandemic levels.
“Social distancing appears to be waning, but infection control and other mitigation strategies are suppressing spread,” the health department weekly update said.
Many areas are experiencing an increase in cases among the 20-39 age group.
“Although this group is less likely to suffer the worst from COVID-19 a spike in cases puts us all at risk,” the report reads.
It also risks a rollback of reopening plans, something other states have done as numbers surge there.
Projections do not anticipate hospitalizations will exceed capacity through August, however it is crucial to mitigate surges, the report states.
Of the 591 cases in the Southside Health District — a region that includes Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties, two are classified as probable cases. The health department lists probable cases as someone who’s showing the signs of COVID-19 and was around someone else who tested positive.
A positive lab result means the coronavirus was detected, and the patient is presumptively both infected and contagious. The health department only records cases from what’s known as RT-PCR tests, which stands for real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain tests. It’s considered the gold standard and drastically differs from antibodies or antigen tests. Antibody tests are highly inaccurate and are not included in the Virginia Department of Health’s data case report.
With the RT-PCR, regardless of how many times a person has been tested, they will only be counted as a case once, according to the health department.
The Southside Health District hasn’t added any outbreaks this week, but the number of cases associated with outbreaks has increased: 236 compared to 229 on Thursday. Another case in a health care worker was added on Sunday.
In Virginia, the health department reports a total of 84,567 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 3,330 since Thursday’s report. Those figures also include probable cases.
Sunday’s data updated listed 2,079 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Virginia.
July 26 data