RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia officials announced updated COVID-19 cases in the Commonweath on Wednesday, rising to 77 cases statewide from the reported 67 cases on Tuesday.
Gov. Ralph Northam addressed the media Wednesday along with other state officials. Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said that the results of 65 tests are pending at the state lab with more tests coming through in private labs.
Oliver said he’s expecting more confirmed cases as those results pour in, and he added public health officials are busy at work with contact investigations of new outbreaks.
“When we say outbreaks what we mean by that is two or more cases that we can trace to common exposure,” he explained, adding that health officials are reporting outbreaks in James City County and in Richmond.
Cases are being reported throughout the Commonwealth except for southwest Virginia, which still has no reported COVID-19 cases, and include:
- 14 cases in central Virginia
- 19 cases in eastern Virginia
- 39 in northern Virginia
- 5 in northwest Virginia
According to Virginia’s Health and Human Resources Secretary Dr. Dan Carey., there are about 2,000 Intensive Care Unit beds throughout the Commonwealth where patients who need a ventilator can receive care.
He added efforts are underway to make sure citizens who need care have access to it.
Carey said six regional healthcare coalitions under the umbrella of the Virginia Healthcare Emergency Management Program can provide about 400 additional ventilator units that can be deployed to specific hospitals where necessary.
Additionally, healthcare providers are working with private vendors to supplement ventilators and other necessary medical equipment.
“We are working closely with our hospitals to make sure they are getting the resources they need,” Carey said.
Commissioner of Social Services Duke Storen said guidelines are forthcoming for childcare centers trying to adhere to the 10-person rule Northam imposed yesterday.
Storen said that childcare providers should work to keep fewer than 10 children in a room at a time, feed children in individual classes and stagger recesses to one classroom at a time.
He said his department will be releasing guidelines for childcare providers soon.
Storen noted that all parents who can care for their children at home should do so in order to reserve childcare services to parents who might be “essential personnel,” such as those working in healthcare.
“We are also reaching out to the healthcare community through the hospital association and other providers to asses their need for additional childcare,” he said.
Blood supply shortage
Northam urged healthy Virginians to donate blood as a nationwide blood shortage grows in the shadow of the pandemic’s spread.
He said he would be donating blood himself at the conclusion of the press conference.
“We are all focused on the coronavirus epidemic, but car accidents, childbirth or emergency surgeries don’t stop,” he said. “Our need for blood does not stop.”
According to James Hatcher, the chief executive officer for the Virginia Region of the American Red Cross, thousands of canceled blood drives have led to about a 100,000 drop in collected units of blood that are usually donated.
Donors will be screened before donating and can visit redcrossblood.org to locate a fixed site at which to donate after a screening process.
Dr. Denise Toney, director of the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Lab Services, said a nationwide shortage on “a wide range of different supplies” used for sample collection for COVID-19 testing has left the state searching for necessary supplies.
She said the federal government can provide most of the supplies.
“We are working in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health to get those supplies out to the localities where they are needed most,” she said. “That is our first priority.”
Small business loans, voting, state tests and the National Guard
Northam said Virginians planning to vote in local elections in May should request an absentee ballot.
The deadline to request a mailed absentee ballot is April 28. Voters who choose this route should check box “2A” for illness/disability as the reason for an absentee ballot.
He also said the state Department of Education is working with the federal government to ease testing requirements for students since school across the Commonwealth have been called off for at least two weeks.
“We want to make sure that testing requirements don’t impact schools’ accreditation, but more immediately we want to ensure that this situation doesn’t affect high school seniors and their ability to get a diploma,” he said.
Small businesses may soon be able to apply for loans, he said, as the state works with the federal small business administration to secure low-interest loans for small businesses up to $2 million.
He said citizens out of a job due to the pandemic should begin making arrangements for unemployment benefits.
Northam added that he’s been in touch with leaders of the National Guard for possible assistance. While he has not yet made a decision whether to use the Guard or not, he said the option is still on the table.
“I can foresee maybe the possibility of helping us if we need more capacity at our hospitals, whether that be with space if we need to move into other structures, if we need to put up tents as we would in mass units, if we need more equipment such as ventilators and probably most importantly if we need more staff,” he said.
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COVID-19 is the disease caused by a novel coronavirus first detected in humans in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
Severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face. Stay up-to-date with guidelines from the CDC and The World Health Organization.