Outbreaks contribute heavily to local case totals

Published 9:43 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

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More than 65 percent of COVID-19 cases in the Western Tidewater Health District are associated with six outbreaks — five at long-term care facilities and one at a correctional facility.

The Virginia Department of Health began reporting more detailed statistics in its Friday update, which lists a total of 422 cases in the Western Tidewater Health District.

One of the new statistics being reported is the number of cases associated with outbreaks. In Western Tidewater, there are 275 cases associated with outbreaks, the website states.

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The Virginia Department of Corrections has confirmed one of the outbreaks is at the Deerfield Correctional Center in Southampton County. There are 77 cases associated with that outbreak.

That means there is an average of nearly 40 cases at each of the five affected long-term care facilities.

State health officials have repeatedly refused to release the names of long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks, though they say they have encouraged the facilities themselves to release that information.

“This is not a decision that was made by the health department,” Dr. Norman Oliver, the state health commissioner, stated in the May 1 briefing by the office of Gov. Ralph Northam. “It is actually something that’s incorporated into the Virginia code. … Unless the code changes, I don’t see how we could do that.”

Also in Western Tidewater, there are 19 cases in health care workers, the website states.

In the local health district, 179 cases are among African Americans, with 125 cases in whites and 14 cases among other races. The race is not reported in 104 cases.

There are 27 African-Americans hospitalized, with 17 whites hospitalized and two others. The race is not reported in one case.

All of the hospitalizations are in people age 30 or over, with 80 percent in those 60 or over.

Among the 17 deaths in the district, nine have been white; six, African-American; and one of another race. The race was not reported in one case.

More than half of the deaths have been in people over the age of 80, and all of them have been in people over 60.

The 422 cases in the district include 175 in Suffolk, 125 in Southampton County, 99 in Isle of Wight County and 23 in Franklin. There are 47 people hospitalized in the district.

Health officials also announced at the May 1 briefing they have changed their methodology for reporting how many tests have been conducted. Previously, the number of tests counted the number of people tested; now, it reflects the number of tests conducted, counting multiple tests on the same patient individually. The change led to a large spike in the numbers of tests reported.

Dr. Laurie Forlano, state epidemiologist, said Virginia’s case counts are continuing to rise in part because of increased testing. A larger number of daily tests, so that positive cases can be isolated and their contacts traced, is considered essential to allow businesses to reopen.

Northam stated during the May 1 briefing that the state’s measures are working.

“These actions have flattened the curve,” he said. “Our case counts continue to climb, but so does our testing. We have slowed the spread, but we are not out of the woods yet. We must continue to move forward carefully.”