RICHMOND, Va. – Three coronavirus results are pending in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam and other health officials held a press conference on how the commonwealth is preparing as the virus continues to spread.
“Coronavirus is serious, and we are taking it seriously. We have a plan, we are executing it and we are prepared," Northam said to reporters and state health leaders Wednesday morning.
According to the governor’s office, Virginia public health officials created an Incident Management Team in January shortly after the virus was identified in Asia. The team is reportedly meeting every day to discuss the virus. The state lab is now also capable of testing for the virus on its own, instead of relying upon the CDC’s lab.
Below is the full press conference:
“The Virginia Department of Health is closely monitoring the virus, to understand where it has appeared and to learn from the experiences of local communities around the world,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD. “While the risk is still low here in Virginia, state agencies are focused on preparation efforts, and we are encouraging Virginians to practice good hygiene measures and continue following updates from state and federal health officials.”
After state leaders acquired test kits, potential coronavirus cases will now be tested at Virginia’s Division Consolidated Laboratory Services instead of at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, allowing results to process faster.
“Being able to test potential cases here in Virginia will help us protect public health by providing results more quickly, so we can prevent the spread of disease and protect our communities,” said Dr. Peake, one of the members of the team monitoring the virus.
If any of those cases do come back positive, they’ll be handled on a case by case basis. But how they’ll handle the patient is simple.
“Until there is a vaccine, the key strategy to preventing the spread is keeping sick people separate from people who are not sick," Peake said.
The state will spend $3.6 million primarily on protective equipment for health care professionals and first responders over the next three months, with another $6 million waiting in the wings. Health leaders said they’re looking at this situation like they have at other situations in the past.
“We successfully responded to the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 to 2010 and that work serves as a very solid foundation," Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said.
According to the Virginia Department of Health website, 17 people have been tested for coronavirus in the commonwealth: 14 results came back negative and three are pending. The pending results are out of central and northern Virginia.
“I don’t believe it’s been overstated, like I said we are taking this seriously and I just want Virginians to know that we are doing everything that we can to prepare for whatever scenario occurs," Northam said.
Governor Northam is also asking Virginians to be mindful of what they post and share online.
“I want to acknowledge that a lot, let me repeat that, that a lot of misinformation is out there about the coronavirus and its impacts. I would discourage everyone from spreading rumors or misinformation," Northam said.
Although state health officials say COVID-19 poses a low risk in the commonwealth, they are urging Virginians to take the following precautions to prevent the potential spread of the disease:
- Avoid close contact with sick individuals
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw that tissue in the trash
For more information, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website.