COVID-19 Cases Pass 32,000 Mark; Richmond to Ramp Up Testing

May 19, 2020

The number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 passed 32,000 on Tuesday.  Meanwhile the City of Richmond plans to ramp up testing as it prepares to move into Phase One reopening.

The Virginia Department of Health reported 1,005 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday morning, raising the state's total to 32,145.  27 additional deaths were also reported, bringing the state's total to 1,041.

6,516 new diagnostic (PCR) test results were entered into the state database Tuesday.  201,183 such tests have now been conducted.  The state's positivity rate  continues to hover around 15%.

Richmond to ramp up testing

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on Tuesday said the city and health department would ramp up testing in underserved communities over the next two weeks.  Late last week, the state approved at least a two week delay in the city beginning the Phase One reopening plan. 

Stoney said Tuesday that testing results will be among the key pieces of data the city will use to understand if it is safe to begin reopening.  Speaking before a testing event at Diversity Richmond's event hall, Stoney said the health department will hold three public testing events each week to help better understand the prevalence of the illness in Richmond.  Stoney said it's not a matter of if Richmond moves into Phase One, but when and how it will be done safely.  "When we reopen, and we will reopen, it will be done safely with all Richmonders in mind.  It will be done equitably.  And it will be rooted in the hard work over the next two weeks," Stoney said.

Additional testing events will be held Thursday at Tuckahoe Middle School and Friday at East Lawn Shopping Center.  Residents should call 804-205-3501 to register.

Stoney encouraged Richmonders to wear face coverings when in public spaces.  He said a city team is also looking at ways to use public open spaces to increase restaurant patio seating capacity and social distancing once it is safe to reopen.

A slow, steady uptick in the Roanoke Valley

Cases of COVID-19 continue a slow, steady increase in the Roanoke Valley and parts of the Alleghany Highlands.

Doctor Molly O’Dell with the Roanoke-Alleghany Health District says as business activity resumes, people should ask themselves if their behavior is both helping the economy and helping prevent the spread of the illness.  "What we are asking is for people to modify their behavior and in a big way in some instances and this goes for business owners and patrons. The more people congregate in groups larger than ten, the more possibility there is going to be of outbreaks and spread," O'Dell said in a call with reporters Tuesday.

O’Dell says the district is averaging 30-some new cases per week, up from averages in the 20’s earlier.  She described it as a long uphill, rather than a spike. While patients in their 50’s and 60’s are the most common age demographic, O’Dell says there has been an increase in the number of cases in children.  The youngest is just eight-months old.

About 12% of the district's cases are Hispanic or Latinx, O'Dell said.  That's a heavy toll, considering the same region's Hispanic/Latinx is about 4% according to the latest population estimates from the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center. Statewide, about 30% of the diagnosed cases are in the Hispanic/Latinx population.