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New cases reported locally

The Western Tidewater Health District experienced wild swings in the number of cases reported in the last week.

The Western Tidewater Health District had 10 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Tuesday. The 10 new cases came a day after the district on Monday reported no new cases for the first time in a month, but Western Tidewater Health District Director Dr. Todd Wagner cautioned there may not be much to that decrease.

Sunday saw 48 new cases. It was the district’s second-largest one-day increase in the number of new cases during the pandemic. The largest was April 23, when a batch of positive test results from Deerfield Correctional Center in Southampton County was reported. However, the latest increase is not attributable to Deerfield, since the number of cases there reported by the Virginia Department of Corrections remained steady over the weekend.

Wagner attributed the disparate results to “ebbs and flows” that occur naturally with such a large number of test results being reported.

“I don’t believe there is a particular trend,” he said. “We are continuing to monitor closely.”

The district has 381 cases — 152 in Suffolk, 115 in Southampton County, 96 in Isle of Wight County and 18 in Franklin.

Eleven people in the district have died of the disease. About 45 patients are hospitalized in Western Tidewater.

Statewide, there are 14,339 cases, and 492 people have died, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reports there are 948 patients positive for COVID-19 in the hospital across the state, with 560 hospitalized for care and awaiting test results. Both groups combined number 376 in the ICU and 217 on a ventilator. Statewide, about 20 percent of ventilators on hand are in use.

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.

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

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.