Gov. declares state of emergency; Positive coronavirus cases in Va. hits 17

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: March 12, 2020 | 4:04 p.m.

VIRGINIA – As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19 continues to rise in the state, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam took action to declare a state of emergency to bolster efforts to combat the disease and slow its spread.

The announcement came during a press conference Thursday afternoon after the Virginia Department of Health said the number of presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the state had risen to 17.

Northam said he and his administration have “convened discussions with university presidents, hospital leaders, nursing home representatives, transportation officials, school superintendents, public safety officials, members of the Virginia congressional delegation, local elected officials, and the business community, to ensure that they have guidance from the state as they make their plans.”

“Virginia has taken steps to prepare schools, transportation systems, and health and social services networks. Private health providers, hospitals, and nursing homes have taken actions to protect patients and staff,” an update on the Governor’s website read Thursday while urging Virginians to continue to take basic health precautions and to do what’s needed to keep themselves and others safe.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, there have been a total of 17 “presumptive positive” cases of COVID-19, up from 8 as of Wednesday morning. Data from the health agency showed ten of the presumptive positive or confirmed cases of the disease were in the northern portion of the state.

Two cases have been reported in Central Virginia, four along the state’s eastern region, and a lone case in Northwestern Virginia. 

In addition, VDH reported there were 117 negative COVID-19 tests, as of Thursday. 

“Our top priority is to make sure Virginians stay safe and healthy, and that our response to this situation leaves no one behind,” Governor Northam said during his press conference Thursday. “From our health department, to our schools, to our hospitals, to our transit systems, Virginia’s agencies and institutions have been thoroughly planning for every scenario. This emergency declaration will ensure we can continue to prepare for and appropriately respond to Virginians’ needs during this time.”

Some of the measures the state is implementing to protect Virginians and prevent further spread of the disease include a ban on state employee travel and the implementation of telework policies. 

In line with many states, Virginia is asking localities and non-profits to limit large public gatherings and public events, while also canceling “all specially-scheduled state conferences and large events for a minimum of 30 days.”

Over the last 24 hours, the NBA, NHL, Major League Soccer, and several other leagues have moved to suspend their seasons to eliminate large public gatherings as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the United States, with over 1,400 cases and nearly 40 deaths reported as of Thursday. 

Other sports, such as NASCAR opted to close their upcoming races in Georgia and Florida to fans, with both of their races expected to be run without spectators in attendance.

Late Thursday afternoon, Richard Bland College announced they were extending Spring Break until March 22.

“Although there are currently no reported cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus at Richard Bland College or in our immediate area, our priority is to protect the health and safety of each member of the campus community by limiting the spread of the virus to the extent possible, while, at the same time, ensuring that students are able to complete their courses and programs of study,” the college said in a statement.

They expect classes to resume “in some form,” likely either in-person or online March 23.

The college has also canceled “All RBC sponsored events scheduled prior to April 10 and that are expected to draw crowds larger than 100 people.”

“At this point, we expect Founder’s Day and commencement activities to proceed as planned. However, should this change, we will provide as much advance notice as possible,” the college detailed.

With the state of emergency now in effect in the Commonwealth, specific consumer protection laws are activated as anti-price gouging regulations seek to prevent businesses from unlawfully marking up essential goods.

Enacted in 2004, Virginia’s Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits a supplier from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” during the thirty days following a declared state of emergency. Items and services covered by these protections include but are not limited to water, ice, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, medicines, personal protective gear and more. 

“The basic test for determining if a price is unconscionable is whether the post-disaster price grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods or services during the ten days immediately before the disaster,” The Virginia Attorney General’s Office explained.

“When you’re trying to make sure that you and your family have all the necessities in order to protect yourselves against illness, the last thing you want to deal with is a scam or exorbitant price for a needed service or product. The sad reality is that there are unscrupulous folks out there who will take advantage of public health crises in order to make more money,” said Attorney General Mike Herring. “Virginia law offers protections for folks who find themselves in need of things like medicines, cleaning products, hand sanitizers, and other necessities during a public health crisis. I would encourage all Virginians to pay attention to any prices that seem too high, and contact my office as soon as possible if you think someone may be illegally overcharging for necessary goods or running a scam.”

Suspected violations should be reported to the Attorney General’s Office at their website, https://www.oag.state.va.us, calling their office at 1-800-552-9963, or sending an email to consumer@oag.state.va.us.

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.

Information about COVID-19 is being shared as it becomes available on the following websites: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/. Also, consult www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus for the latest number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Health has also activated a public information line, 877-ASK-VDH3, for questions from residents about the novel coronavirus situation.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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