Virginia Reaches a Six-Month Milestone in COVID-19 Response

By Arianna Coghill

October 8, 2020

For the first time since April, the percentage of COVID-19 positive tests is under 5%.

RICHMOND- Virginia’s response to COVID-19 seems to be working. The actual number of cases remains steady, with the percentage of positive tests dropping below 5%. This marks the first time since before May that less than 5% of tested cases came back positive.

Gov. Ralph Northam, who’s steadily recovering from the virus himself, warned Virginians to remain responsible.

“We want to continue to be vigilant and cautious as we move forward,” Northam said in a video posted to his Twitter feed Tuesday. “I know this is a very stressful time for all Virginians, so I encourage you to continue to wear your mask, continue to wash your hands, keep your social distancing and take care of yourselves, your loved ones, family and friends.”

As of Wednesday night, the Virginia Department of Health had reported 153,619 cases since the pandemic started. From Tuesday to Wednesday, only 509 new cases came in, the lowest 24-hour total in more than a month.

COVID-19 testing is on the rise

Currently, 2,170,313 COVID-19 tests have been run across the state. However, data suggests that more Virginians are getting tested each day, with the average increasing to 16,000 a day after a steep decline last week.

Out of those 2.1 million tests, only 4.8% are positive, part of a consistent two week trend. This means that the average amount of positive cases could plateau at 750 to 800 cases.  Now these are all people tested with the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, kits. To be clear, these PCR tests take a few days to process and most people only get tested when symptoms develop. Since symptoms take up to two weeks to show, what we’re seeing now is how Virginia looked in mid-September. 

RELATED: Is a Quicker COVID-19 Vaccine Worth the Risk?

Thousands discharged from hospitals

There was one problem, however. Hospital cases related to COVID-19 continue to rise. According to a daily report from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, the state’s total number of currently hospitalized people is 1,003. This is a slight jump from Tuesday’s total of 962.

Of these 1,003 COVID-19 hospitalizations, there are 641 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,189 COVID-19 patients were released from hospitals in Virginia. The VHHA also released information about hospitals supply amount, bed availability and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy.

Right now, Virginia hospitals has patients occupying 80% of the ICU. This is a spike from last year which only saw 67%.

However, on a positive note, no Virginia hospitals have reported a shortage in personal protective equipment, like N95 masks or hospital gowns. In April, the governor outlined key benchmarks that hospitals are supposed to hit in terms of medical supplies.

The VDH also reported 12 more people who died due to COVID-19 since Tuesday. This bring Virginia’s death toll to 3,033.

Northam responds to Trump

Alongside many other Virginians, our own governor and First Lady are still recovering from the virus. On Sept. 25, Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife Pamela both tested positive for COVID-19. Now, the couple are in isolation in their home and monitoring their symptoms. Recently, Northam reported that he’s experiencing mild symptoms of COVID, including the loss of sense of smell and taste.

The governor also commented on President Donald Trump’s most recent comments. Recently, the president compared the potentially deadly virus to the flu. This is shortly after Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 himself. On Monday, Trump also tweeted this to the American people: “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.” Northam called the remark irresponsible.

“What we’re doing works and we’ll continue to use that tracing method,” Governor Northam said. “It’s all about protecting people, and for the President to say ‘Don’t let COVID-19 scare you or let it affect your lives’, that’s just the wrong message.”

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