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Central Virginia localities declare state of emergency due to coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus cases rise to 30 in Virginia
Posted at 10:45 AM, Mar 13, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- One day after Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency for the Commonwealth of Virginia, leaders from Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, and Goochland gathered as a region to declare a state of emergency for their localities in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"These declarations will enable us, working in concert with the state government to act swiftly and responsibility to marshal resources," said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney at a press conference Friday. "It was enable us to work collaboratively to address the needs of our communities as Covid-19 evolves in our region.

Governor Ralph Northam confirmed there are now 30 presumptive positive or confirmed coronavirus cases in Virginia. That's up from 17 reported cases on Thursday.

“While the virus isn't here in Central Virginia in great number, we know it will grow,” said Stoney added. “We've seen from other areas what happens if people aren't prepared. We're working to minimize the impact.

"We know that the coronavirus knows no borders,” said Stoney. "We know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Stoney and several local officials encouraged residents to avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing, and following common sense personal hygiene protocols to minimize the potential for community spread.

Dr. Danny Avula, Director of Richmond and Henrico Health Departments, said one of the biggest challenges of COVID-19 has been the lack of good data regarding the disease.

"Our access to that data has been fairly limited because we've had really limited testing capacity and as a result, we only have a partial picture of whats been going on with COVID-19 around the country," he said.

While the state and private labs are working to increase their testing capacity and develop their own test, Avula says they're looking at setting up a screening and testing facility for Central Virginia.

He says he fully expects coronavirus cases to “grow significantly” as testing expands around the state.

“We also know that this is not the flu,” said Avula. “There’s no vaccine to COVID-19, there is no treatment outside of supportive care… Early reports are showing that is somewhere between 10 and 20 times more deadly than the flu across the globe.”

Avula says we have got to do everything we can to flatten the epidemic curve and prevent a surge of disease that would overwhelm the health system.

"The goal is to slow down the spread of disease to keep the peak lower and spread out." said Avula. "So, some people will still contract the illness. They will still have serious symptoms. They will need hospital care, but if we can that number low enough our hospitals have a fighting chance to keep them alive."

To do that, requires drastic measures, said Avula.

“We are also going to have to change the norms of our social interaction, basically overnight, if we are going to minimize the transmission of virus,” he added. “All the messages you’ve been hearing about hand washing, face touching, hand shaking and self-isolation.”

He said those steps, along with avoiding large gathering, are required to flatten the epidemic curve.

"These interventions need to be enacted early enough to make a difference," said Avula.

Officials provided links so residents can stay up to date on the COVID-19.

City of Richmond website

CDC

Virginia Department of Health

Stay with CBS for updates on this developing story.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Virginia health officials reminds individuals to take the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.