COVID-19 cases now total seven in James City County

Published 1:15 pm Friday, March 13, 2020

Five more presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus have been detected in James City County, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

This brings the county’s total to seven, the highest of any locality in the state. There are now 30 cases statewide, the VDH stated on its website Friday.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Thursday.

The declaration allows for additional flexibility in dealing with the virus.

“While Virginia has been preparing for weeks, and we have adequate funding on hand, it has become increasingly clear that states need to lead the national response,” Northam said.

No one has died in Virginia as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. However, 10 of the 30 presumptive positive COVID-19 cases have required hospitalization.

As of noon Friday, there have been 1,629 U.S. reported cases of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and 41 people have died. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reported COVID-19 cases.

“The situation is fluid, and it is changing rapidly,” Northam said.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms, according to the state health department. A small number of people, however, can experience more severe symptoms, leading to death, especially for those who are older or have chronic medical conditions.

Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and they appear within 14 days of being exposed to someone who has been infected. COVID-19 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets that come when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Northam called for state residents to avoid large gatherings, and he has canceled all state conferences and large events for the next 30 days. He also called for local governments and private organizers to do the same.

“Our goal is to get everyone back to work as quickly as possible,” Northam said. “But make no mistake, protecting public health is our top priority. That is driving all of these decisions and it will be the determining factor of all our decisions as this situation moves forward.”

Northam said he has directed the state’s economic teams to assess and prepare for long-term impacts to the economy.

The state of emergency also kicked in Virginia’s anti-price gouging statutes to designed to protected people from paying higher-than-normal prices for needed items and services during the emergency.

“Virginia law offers protections for folks who find themselves in need of things like medicines, cleaning products, hand sanitizers and other necessities during a public health crisis,” Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement.

State epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said there is still no sign of community spread of the virus, or cases in which it is unclear how the patient got it.

State employees are not allowed to travel outside the state for at least 30 days, with increased flexibility for essential personnel and those traveling within the state. Northam has also directed Secretary of Administration Dr. Keyanna Conner to put in place a phased transition to teleworking for state employees.

Northam’s administration has also been in contact with local superintendents and advised local school divisions to consult with local health departments to update their pandemic guidelines.

He advised localities to make their own decisions in consultation with local public health officials.

“For example, schools build days into their calendar for snow days, but in most parts of the state, we have had a light winter, and those days are available,” Northam said. “Schools need to consider how to best serve those students with disabilities and make sure there are accommodations.

“And while rates of absenteeism are typically factored into our accreditation process, this emergency order will give authority to issue waivers for that requirement.”

The Virginia Department of Health has also expanded its testing criteria so that those with coronavirus symptoms who live in nursing homes get top priority and are tested immediately.

“We understand how critical it is to stay in front of this disease,” Northam said. “While it is very likely to spread, our actions can help mitigate how fast and how far this virus spreads. It is our responsibility, every one of us, to take this seriously and do our part to help limit the spread of this disease.”

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.