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Community testing yields few positive COVID-19 cases

Less than 3 percent of people who underwent COVID-19 testing at a pair of community events in the last couple weeks tested positive for the virus.

While there were 18 positive tests out of the 451 people who came to a downtown testing event June 5, a majority of those positive tests came from people who work at a Smithfield business, according to Deputy Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Spicer.

Spicer told City Council at its Wednesday meeting that 13 of the 23 people who came from an unidentified Smithfield business tested positive for COVID-19.

When those numbers are subtracted from the testing totals, just five out of 428 people tested, or 1.17 percent, tested positive for COVID-19.

At Bennett’s Creek Park five days later, just five of 333 people, or 1.5 percent, tested positive for COVID-19. Combined, just 1.3 percent of people at the two community testing events tested positive.

None of the 28 people with the Nansemond Indian Nation tested positive during a testing conducted just for them, Spicer said.

The city has seen 348 cases of COVID-19, with 34 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health, and, according to ZIP code data from the state health department, 5,282 people, or about 5.7 percent of the city’s population, have been tested. State health officials have said their goal has been to test 2 to 4 percent of the population.

In the last seven days, Spicer noted there had been 18 new positive COVID-19 cases in the city, with one hospitalization and one death.

“It’s a pretty good improvement over what we’ve seen in the past,” Spicer said. “These numbers are much better than they have been in the past and they continue to move in the right direction.”

In the Western Tidewater Health District — made up of Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County — there have been 704 positive COVID-19 cases, with a positivity rate of about 3.8 percent.

Spicer said there are currently five confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Sentara Obici Hospital, while another four who are there pending test results. Just one patient at the hospital is in intensive care, with none on a ventilator. He said emergency department visits and outpatient surgeries at Sentara Obici Hospital are increasing.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett said he is concerned about COVID-19 and about people wearing their masks and social distancing.

“I see a lot of people seem to be relaxing quite a bit, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad, just because the numbers have come down a little bit,” Bennett said, “And I think we need to continue to practice using our masks and social distancing because we don’t want to go back. We want to continue to improve so we can go back to normal as soon as possible. … I’m just saying to everyone listening (that) I hope we take this thing serious and try to live by what is out there in the guidelines that we should be following.”