The Charlottesville area had three new cases of COVID-19 reported to the Thomas Jefferson Health District on Thursday, bringing total area cases to four.
Health district officials said two of the new cases are in Charlottesville and the other is in Albemarle County.
The Albemarle case appears to be a University of Virginia student, according to a note the university put on its website Thursday night. The university says a health department followup is underway.
The first local confirmed case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, was announced Monday. That case is of a woman in her late 50s who works at the UVa’s Women’s Center.
UVa also said that an employee of the Biocomplexity Institute in Arlington has tested positive. It is not clear if that person had interacted with people in the Charlottesville area recently.
Health district officials say they expect more cases to be discovered as the number of people tested for the virus increases. They indicated they would post new cases on the district website rather than issue statements when each case is confirmed.
“We anticipate that there will be more and suggest people visit [vdh.virginia.gov] for the latest numbers,” said Kathryn Goodman, a spokeswoman for the district, which is part of the Virginia Department of Health. “The website is updated around noon every day.”
The state’s most recent numbers show 94 confirmed cases, but did not include the three new local cases.
UVa Health System officials say they are now conducting their own COVID-19 tests.
“We have started performing local tests in a limited capacity, about 20 per day right now, with the hopes of increasing to around 80 per day by this weekend,” said Eric Swensen, UVa Health System spokesman. “One factor that will limit our capacity for testing is a national shortage of the nasal and upper throat swabs needed to perform the test.”
Swensen said the local testing is being conducted based on criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department.
“Our clinicians have the discretion to request testing based on their review of an individual patient’s situation,” he said. “In general, testing is based on factors that include a patient’s symptoms, potential exposure to others with COVID-19 and recent travel history. Any positive test would be reported to the [health department].”
Two men from Richmond who attended the March 5 grand opening of the Quirk Hotel Charlottesville tested positive for COVID-19. The pair also had traveled to New York and Philadelphia for work and attended various social events prior to the call for social distancing.
Quirk employees said the hotel has continued sanitation measures that began after the opening and prior to the pair testing positive.
Goodman said the health department has reached out to those who attended the event and may have come in contact with the pair.
As the number of virus cases increases — national officials said Thursday that a ramp-up in testing availability will now allow labs to work through a backlog of tests, likely leading to many more confirmed cases — UVa said it plans to increase the number of beds for virus patients.
“We have developed multiple scenarios for providing care if we were to see an influx of patients that required hospitalization for coronavirus,” Swensen said. “We are also readying an inpatient unit in our newly constructed hospital expansion building to provide care, if needed.”
UVa also has rescheduled certain surgeries and clinic visits to accommodate virus patients.
“We’ve taken multiple steps this week that will help expand our capacity,” Swensen said. “They include rescheduling most elective surgeries over the next two weeks, as well as rescheduling most outpatient clinic visits, with the exception of urgent care and sick care visits, that were scheduled between now and April 6.”
UVa also is partnering with the virtual health care company Teladoc to help employees answer questions about COVID-19, evaluate risk and determine if additional testing or treatment is needed.
The service is free to UVa health plan participants and employees through June 4.
Local governments and organizations also made several changes Thursday to accommodate social distancing needed to keep the virus contained.
Albemarle County extended the deadline to apply for the real property tax exemption for elderly and disabled persons from April 1 to May 16.
More information on qualifications and how to apply can be found at albemarle.org/finance under the real estate tax relief programs tab.
Charlottesville’s treasury office has suspended all collections for past-due taxes and fees, the city announced Thursday.
Taxpayers who received a personal property tax supplement originally due on April 3 now will have a due date of April 17.
The assessment of past-due penalty and interest on all local taxes has been suspended until May 31.
Businesses responsible for remitting meals and lodging tax are encouraged to file timely returns and set up appropriate payment arrangements with the city.
During the duration of City Hall’s closure to the public, taxpayers are encouraged to use alternative means of communication with the city, such as drop boxes, online payments and email and phone communication, the city said.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels of Charlottesville/Albemarle announced its last regular delivery will be March 23 and will consist of one hot meal and one cold meal for March 24.
On March 24, Meals on Wheels will be closed, but workers will package two weeks’ worth of shelf-stable food into reusable bags to give to each meal recipient. The shelf-stable bags of food will be delivered to all of their current meal recipients on March 25. The organization then will be closed until at least April 8.
Meals on Wheels said it will announce a plan by April 6 for the following two weeks.
The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library has announced a temporary e-library card program to help local readers who are self-quarantined.
E-library resources includes access to books, magazines, movies, and databases through the use of providers like Overdrive/Libby, rbDigital, Freading, Kanopy, and more.
To sign up for this card, please visit jmrl.org/librarycard.
If a patron already has a JMRL library card, they do not need to sign up for a temporary e-library card.
For links to JMRL’s elibrary, please visit JMRL’s blog at jmrlblog.com/2020/03/14/available-online-resources/.