Health and Medicine
Governor Northam has set Wednesday, July 1 as the day Virginia will move to Phase 3 of his reopening executive orders. Among other things, social gatherings will be permitted up 250 people. Retail stores and restaurants will be permitted to resume operations at 100% permitted capacity, but physical distancing guidelines will still have to be followed. Gyms and fitness centers will be permitted to operate at 75% capacity. Entertainment venues like museums, zoos and other outdoor venues will be able to open at 50% of capacity with a maximum of 1,000 people. Child care facilities will be permitted to open, but overnight summer camps will remain closed.
Northam says Virginia is now well-positioned to handle any potential resurgence in cases, and he doesn’t expect to order any reversal should that happen, but he is not ruling it out either, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports:
Headed for the Grand Strand – Myrtle Beach – any time soon? Dr. Molly O’Dell with the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts said today the beach resort town has become a coronavirus “hot spot.” O’Dell also acknowledged during her weekly teleconference that some people are “weary” about COVID-19 and letting their guard down – like not wearing masks and social distancing. O’Dell says its still an “uphill climb” when it comes to beating the coronavirus, with local infection numbers rising from a week ago.
According to the latest numbers released this morning by the Virginia Department of Health there are 45 new confirmed or probable coronavirus cases being attributed to the Roanoke Valley. State health officials are reporting 19 new cases in Roanoke City, 18 new cases in Roanoke County, and 8 new cases in Botetourt County. Coronavirus numbers in Salem remain the same. There are no new deaths related to coronavirus being reported in the Roanoke Valley.
There are 18 new confirmed or probable coronavirus cases being attributed to the Roanoke Valley, according to the latest numbers released this morning by the Virginia Department of Health. State health officials are reporting 11 new cases in Roanoke City, 6 new cases in Roanoke County, and 1 new case in Botetourt County.There are no new deaths related to coronavirus being reported in the Roanoke Valley.
This is the time of year many universities are preparing to welcome incoming students with summer orientation sessions. This year, of course, it will be different, as Virginia Tech’s plans demonstrate. The plan each year at VT is to bring admitted students onto campus in rotating groups over five weeks or so. This summer, the schedule remains the same, but with COVID concerns remaining prevalent, no incoming freshmen are coming to Blacksburg. Instead, it’s all on line, a lot of it live, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that he will release the names of nursing homes that have had a coronavirus outbreak, a reversal from his previous stance that releasing the information could violate patients’ privacy.
Northam said he is directing the Virginia Department of Health to release the names on its website. He said the widespread nature of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it less likely that releasing the information will violate someone’s privacy or limit cooperation with a public health investigation.
“Governor Northam has always been committed to providing as much information as possible under state law,” Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said in a statement. “We are confident that given these new circumstances, this decision will ensure the maximum transparency allowed under the code.”
State officials have previously declined to disclose which nursing homes or other live-in medical facilities have reported cases or deaths from COVID-19, citing state code that they said treats a facility as a person when it comes to disclosure of health information.
At the same time, many families of residents who have been largely prohibited from visiting the facilities have told The Associated Press and other news outlets that they have had a hard time obtaining information at the height of outbreaks.
Northam also said his decision was prompted by faulty data released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about nursing home cases, which the governor said had created confusion.
Republicans blasted Northam, saying he had the legal authority to release the names of the nursing homes much earlier.
“I cannot fathom the reasoning behind the governor’s announcement today,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert said. “Incompetence kills, and there is a great deal of incompetence from this governor.”
Minutes from a state task force meeting focused on dealing with the coronavirus in long-term care facilities show a discussion took place last month about the release of federal data and concerns that it would create “a media frenzy.”
“We need to be thoughtful here at VDH about the communication strategy about this data release to minimize the backlash,” an unidentified meeting participant said in the minutes, which were provided to AP by the health department.
The virus has ravished nursing homes nationwide. About 1.4 million older and medically frail people live in such facilities, a tiny share of the American population that has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Most nursing home residents have been in lockdown since early March, isolated from families and friends even in death.
The Virginia data released Friday shows current outbreaks at about 70 long-term care facilities and indicates seven facilities have had 25 or more coronavirus-related deaths. There have been about 1,000 deaths at long-term care facilities in Virginia, accounting for about 60% of the state’s total virus-related deaths, according to state data.
Northam also announced Friday that the state would be spending an extra $246 million to help long-term care facilities address staffing and equipment shortages as well new coronavirus testing requirements. The state has a goal of testing every long-term care facility resident and staff by July 15.
The Trump administration previously urged every state to have every nursing home resident and staff member tested by the end of May. Many states did not make that goal and some did not try to.
The Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living, a trade group representing nursing homes, said the newly released data highlights the disproportionate impact the virus has had on long-term care facilities.
“We know that full transparency and real-time, accurate data being made available will validate our calls for assistance that nursing homes and assisted living centers have been making since the beginning of this pandemic,” CEO Keith Hare said in a statement.
Governor Northam says one of the things he is monitoring before setting a date for “Phase 3” re-opening is the COVID-19 numbers in other states that have already loosened restrictions. Among other things when it occurs, restaurants will be able to increase indoor seating. Northam indicates the soonest he will authorize Phase 3 is one week from today. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:
31 new confirmed or probable coronavirus cases have been attributed to the Roanoke Valley, according to the latest data released this morning by the Virginia Department of Health. State health officials are reporting 14 new cases in Roanoke City, 12 in Roanoke County, 4 in Botetourt County, and 1 in Salem. There are no new coronavirus related deaths being reported in the Roanoke Valley.
Governor Northam today outlined how Phase 3 of his reopening executive orders will impact Virginia, but he says it is too soon to set a specific date for its implementation. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:
Social gatherings will be permitted up 250 people. Retail stores and restaurants will be permitted to resume operations at 100% permitted capacity, but physical distancing guidelines will still have to be followed. Gyms and fitness centers will be permitted to operate at 75% capacity. Entertainment venues like museums, zoos and other outdoor venues will be able to open at 50% of capacity with a maximum of 1,000 people. Child care facilities will be permitted to open, but overnight summer camps will remain closed.
As for a start date, Northam said Thursday he was not yet prepared to set one: