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Virginia on verge of slow reopen: Northam signals support for delays in Northern Virginia

Virginia covid-19
(© Ingo Menhard –

Virginia is moving forward with the beginning of the slow reopen of the state set to launch on Friday, though five Northern Virginia localities are seeking a delay in beginning Phase 1 of the three-phase strategy.

The localities ringing the nation’s capital reported more than 700 new cases in the past 24 hours, roughly 70 percent of the new cases statewide, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Health.

The situation is improving in Northern Virginia, according to Gov. Ralph Northam, both in terms of testing, which is increasing, and COVID-19 hospitalizations, which are holding steady.

But there is more COVID-19 prevalence there as is also the case in the District and in Maryland counties contiguous to D.C.

Northam had previously expressed reservations to backing a reopening strategy that would proceed at different paces in different parts of the state, but he began indicating last week that he would be on board with that approach, given the different situations on the ground in Northern Virginia relative to the rest of the state.

In those parts of the state that will be moving toward the slow reopening, Phase 1 of the three-phased reopening, as detailed last week, allows non-essential retail to open at up to 50 percent of capacity, and allows restaurants and breweries with outdoor seating to open at 50 percent of outdoor-seating capacity.

Churches can always operate at 50 percent of their indoor capacity in Phase 1, and personal grooming establishments can take clients by appointment with strict social distancing in place.

Private campgrounds may reopen.

Fitness facilities are still closed for indoor gym usage, and entertainment and public amusement businesses must also remain closed.

Beaches are also under ongoing restrictions from the lockdown, for exercise and fishing only.

Northam said these policies will remain in place for a minimum of two weeks, based on conditions on the ground, which in the here and now continue to look generally positive outside of Northern Virginia.

The governor said there were 9,801 COVID-19 tests conducted in the Commonwealth on Sunday, just short of the 10,000 daily-tests goal that he had set as a key benchmark last month.

The VHHA COVID-19 dashboard lists the number of COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized, and hospitalized patients whose COVID-19 test results are still pending, at 1,504.

There were a combined 1,625 patients meeting those criteria as of the Friday, May 8 VHHA update.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalized and have since been discharged is at 3,273 in the Monday dashboard update, up from the 2,997 reported as of May 8.

The dashboard offers that just 21 percent of the ventilators on hand for use in Virginia hospitals are currently being used, and there are 4,677 hospital beds available, representing 25.7 percent of the aggregate capacity in Virginia hospitals, with an additional 3,695 beds available that were added under an executive order from Northam directing hospitals to increase their licensed bed capacity.

The availability of beds is consistent with numbers from the past several weeks, and what’s significant there is that this is happening as hospitals have begun scheduling and performing elective surgeries that had been shuttered for six weeks under another Northam executive order aimed at preserving space for an expected COVID-19 patient surge that never materialized.

The latest numbers from the VDH dashboard report 830 COVID-19 deaths, with 503 of those deaths – 60.6 percent of the total – coming in long-term care facilities.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
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