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UPDATE: Va. sees flattening of curve, but it's too soon to loosen restrictions, health official says

RICHMOND — Virginia has seen a flattening of the curve, as the numbers of people infected with COVID-19 in the state has begun to stabilize, but it’s too soon to loosen restrictions in place, said Dr. Laurie Forlano, deputy commissioner for population health for the state health department on Friday.

Forlano said that the state is following different projection models and anticipates the state to reach its peak for the first wave of the disease in the coming weeks, but that they don’t know exactly when it will happen.

“We’re consistently seeing that the models are showing that the social distancing is working,” Forlano said.

One of the main purposes behind Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order is to slow the spread of the virus and give the state’s health care system and testing capabilities a chance to ramp up.

Forlano said that the state would want to see at least two weeks of downward trends in positive cases and COVID-19 visits to emergency rooms, as well as confidence that testing and hospital bed capacity is sufficient to meet need, before loosening restrictions and “reopening” the state.

“Opening up too soon would really not be the wisest choice right now,” she said.

This week, several states – including Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska – have announced plans to start reopening businesses in the coming days in spite of experts warning that this could lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Forlano said that she’d like to see Virginia’s testing capacity increase.

Northam announced a task force earlier this week to focus on testing as the state has lagged behind neighboring states in capacity.

The state is also looking ahead to plan for a potential second wave of COVID-19 later this year.

“We definitely think of the future while managing the crisis at hand,” Forlano said. “I do think people will have to adjust to the new normal.”

– Bridget Balch

The Virginia Department of Health reported Friday there are 11,169 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state – an increase of 542 from the 10,627 reported Thursday.

Also, there are 407 confirmed deaths reported by the VDH, which is an increase of 37 from the 370 reported the previous day.

The VDH said 69,015 people have been tested for the virus in Virginia, and 1,837 have been hospitalized, including 8 probable cases.

Locally, the Thomas Jefferson Health District has fallen to the seventh most test results in the commonwealth, with 2,738 tests, according to the VDH.

The VDH also reported that the TJHD has 49 COVID-related hospitalizations; the eleventh-most in the commonwealth.

On Wednesday, the TJHD reported 245 cases of the virus and 12 deaths in the region it serves, which covers Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.

This week, the VDH started reporting probable COVID-19 cases and probable deaths from the virus. As of Friday, there 425 probable cases and 3 probable deaths. Those figures bring overall cases and deaths in the state to 11,594 and 410 respectively.

Probable cases are people who are symptomatic with a known exposure to COVID-19, but have not been confirmed with a positive test.

State health officials have said there’s a lag in the reporting of statewide numbers on the VDH website. Figures on the website might not include cases or deaths reported by localities or local health districts.

– Paul Whelan


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