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As Virginia cases rise, governor forecasts long disruptions

Coronavirus in Virginia
Coronavirus in Virginia (WSLS 10)

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Sunday offered a sobering timeline of efforts to diminish the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak, warning that life as we've known it will be disrupted "for a long time."

Virginia health officials said the state's load of positive COVID-19 cases had grown by 65 from the day before to nearly 220 as of Sunday, with three deaths, including a Fairfax County resident who died on Saturday.

The increase in cases is attributed in part to the increased testing capacity in the state, Northam said at a news conference, but it's also because the virus continues to spread.

"COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time - months, not weeks. We need to begin adjusting to that reality," he said. "It is difficult to live with uncertainty. But the sooner we all adopt these new ways of living, the sooner we will all get through this."

A state public health order mandates restaurants, fitness centers and theaters limit their capacity to 10. Northam said some people still aren't heeding the strong advice to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people everywhere else. "This is not a holiday; this is not a vacation," he said.

The virus causes only minor flu-like symptoms in most people, who recover in a matter of weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death in some, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Severe cases are often only able to breathe with respirators.

Northam said he would on Monday announce the next steps for Virginia's K-12 schools, which are in the middle of a two-week closure.

The governor's administration also has been asking CEOs of companies in Virginia to help with the production and transport of protective equipment for health care workers and first responders, and other supplies.

“Our message is clear: It is time to step up,” he said. “Now Virginia needs your expertise in manufacturing, logistics and in the supply chain,” he said.