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Testing capabilities increase but still lag other states

Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday touted the state’s increased testing capabilities for COVID-19, even as less than 1 percent of people in the state, and just over 1 percent of people in the Western Tidewater Health District, have been tested for the virus.

Northam, at his press briefing, said the state has doubled the number of tests from around 2,000 per day to 4,000 per day over the past several days. The goal, he said, is to test at least 10,000 people per day, with the state department of health prioritizing testing in public housing, prisons and long-term care facilities.

He said that will be helped by the shipment of 14,000 swabs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency used to administer the tests, though he noted the state has ordered 200,000 more from FEMA. Northam also announced that a new shipment of personal protective equipment, or PPE, is on its way to the state. The PPE includes 800,000 gloves, 300,000 surgical masks and 40,000 isolation gowns.

Through Monday morning, the Virginia Department of Health reported 13,535 positive cases of COVID-19 — all but 499 of those confirmed cases — with more than 80,000 state residents having been tested for the virus. The probable cases are people who have not been tested for COVID-19 but were diagnosed by a doctor based on symptoms and a known exposure.

Across the district, 18 percent of those who have been tested for COVID-19 have tested positive, nearly mirroring the 17 percent of people tested for the virus statewide who have had positive results.

“We’ll get to the point where we have adequate testing, but it’s not adequate anywhere in the country right now,” Northam said.

Of the 371 positive COVID-19 cases reported in Western Tidewater, 147 are in Suffolk, 115 in Southampton County, 93 in Isle of Wight County and 16 in Franklin, with 2,049 people having been tested. There have been six reported outbreaks in the district, five at long-term care facilities and the other at the Deerfield Correctional Facility in Southampton. District-wide, eight people have died from COVID-19 — five from Suffolk, two from Isle of Wight and one from Southampton.

With a decline in child vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic, Northam also urged parents to continue taking their children to wellness visits with their pediatricians and keep their children’s vaccinations up-to-date.

Northam also announced Monday that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team is coming to Virginia to help in the fight against COVID-19 at the state’s poultry plants. This comes after Northam, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Delaware Gov. John Carney sent a letter Friday to President Donald Trump asking for help in battling the virus outbreaks at poultry plants on the Delmarva Peninsula.

He also held a meeting of the COVID-19 business task force to continue its work on a reopening strategy for the state, and indicated he would be open to reopening parts of Virginia’s economy regionally. He cited the southwestern city of Bristol — which straddles the Virginia-Tennessee border — as an example. The Tennessee side of the city has been able to reopen some of its businesses, while the Virginia part of the city has not.