Mecklenburg County’s COVID-19 cases hit 200 on Sunday morning, according to Virginia Health Department data.

Halifax County’s caseload of 29 remains unchanged since Tuesday. However, surrounding localities of Mecklenburg, Danville, Pittsylvania County, Martinsville and Henry County all have reported additional cases of the severe respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

Danville recorded another death linked to COVID-19 on Friday, marking two for the city.

Across Virginia, there are 36,244 reported cases, according to Sunday’s data. That number also includes 1,793 probable cases, meaning a patient is showing symptoms of COVID-19 and had known contact with someone else who’s tested positive. Sunday’s state figure is an increase of 495 from the previous day.

The death toll in the commonwealth stands at 1,171. Twenty of those are in Mecklenburg County.

Announcement on masks expected

At his Friday COVID-19 briefing, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam hinted at instituting a statewide policy on wearing facial coverings.

“We know that when most people wear masks that goes a long way toward reducing the spread of the disease,” the governor said. “Wearing a mask you’re literally saving someone else’s life.”

However, Northam divulged few details other than his administration is working out details on a policy that may be announced on Tuesday, when the briefings switch from three times a week to only two on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

He said masks are an important part of the next steps, also hinting at entering what’s known as phase two of reopening the state’s economy. Specific details for that phase have not fully been released, but based on federal guidelines would allow sit-down indoor dining possible under specific protocols.

The federal guidelines offer a blueprint of sorts to help states navigate the maze of reopening businesses shuttered in late March in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The earliest Virginia could possible enter phase two would be this coming Friday, but officials may want to wait a few more days to ensure a 14-day downward trend continues in the data.

Even in the federal-level phase two, all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place. It’s not until phase three of the federal plan that those people with preexisting health conditions could resume public interaction, but still must practice strict social distancing.

Testing

Of the 250 cases in the Southside Health District — an area that includes Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties — 173 are in four outbreaks across three long-term care facilities and one health care setting, according to the health department. Sixty-five cases are health care workers.

By comparison, in the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District there are three cases associated with outbreaks out of the 78 in Danville and Pittsylvania County. Five health care workers have tested positive for the virus in that district.

The seven-day average of percent positive results — a key metric used by officials to not only track the virus but to decided when to lift social restrictions — continues a downward trend in the state.