coronavirus update

BOB BROWN/TIMES-DISPATCH

State officials update legislators on the novel coronavirus outbreak.

2:30 p.m. update: Virginia now has 17 presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, according to the website for the Virginia Department of Health.

A breakdown on the website said 10 cases were in northern Virginia, 2 in central Virginia, 4 in eastern Virginia, and 1 in northwest Virginia.

Earlier Thursday, the site said eastern Virginia only had 2 cases.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Northam said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that the state is canceling state-sponsored conferences and banning work-related travel by state employees for 30 days.

“I am asking top economic officials to continue to assess how this will affect our economy and figure out ways to mitigate that,” the governor said. “Our goal is for everyone to get back to work as quickly as possible, but protecting public safety is our top priority.”

Fairfax provides details on two new cases

The Fairfax County Health Department reported two new presumptive positive coronavirus cases on Thursday afternoon.

One case was a man in his 60s whose spouse is a presumptive positive case in North Carolina. 

The second case is a man in his 20s who is close contact of the N.C. case.

Both Fairfax men are isolated at home.

The total number of Fairfax cases is now four.

Weinstein JCC closing for two days

The Weinstein Jewish Community Center, which provides childcare, sports and fitness services for Richmonders of all faiths, announced Thursday that it will close Thursday and Friday due to COVID-19 concerns.

"We have confirmed that a preschool child and family came in contact with someone who was exposed to the COVID-19 virus. The individual who was exposed is not a JCC member and has not visited our facility. This individual has been tested and we are waiting on the results. At this time, we have no evidence that any of our members or staff are exhibiting symptoms," the center wrote on Facebook early Thursday morning.

15 coronavirus cases in Virginia, state officials say

11:25 a.m.: Virginia has 15 cases of coronavirus, state health officials said Thursday.

Dr. Lilian Peake, the state's epidemiologist, told the House Appropriations Committee that there are 15 cases, an increase from nine the state reported Wednesday.

“This pandemic has been shifting and it’s changed every day," Peake told lawmakers.

Details on the six additional cases were not immediately available.

A breakdown on the Virginia Department of Health's website said 10 cases were in northern Virginia, 2 in central Virginia, 2 in eastern Virginia, and 1 in northwest Virginia.

Dr. M. Norman Oliver, the state health commissioner, told the committee that "hundreds" in the state had been tested, but did not offer a specific number.

Longwood University said Wednesday night that a student had tested positive, and Alexandria reported Wednesday that a resident had tested positive, putting the total at 11.

Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that Virginia is not under a state of emergency, but said state officials are “prepared to do so if needed.”

Peake said the state lab has enough tests for 500 people, and is working to build capacity.

“Testing is limited now, so it is important that we, though public health, test those who are most at risk,” Peake said.

“If we overwhelm our public health system testing people who really don’t have a risk of having been exposed, we won’t be able to identify the cases and that will lead to further spread.”

Oliver said the state will issue guidance soon on how to mitigate community spread of COVID-19.

“I can say with confidence we’ll have some very specific guidance coming out around that soon,” Oliver said.

“At some point we are going to be looking a the necessity of thinking about curtailing mass gatherings. We’ll have some suggestions about to do with our workforce.”

(This is a developing story. It will be updated.)

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