Northam, State Officials Watching COVID-19 Situation in Southwest Virginia

Oct 28, 2020

Virginia's statewide positivity rate currently sits around 5%. But, it's closer to 9% in certain areas of southwestern Virginia, especially those localities near the Tennessee border.

During a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam addressed the situation.

“We’re keeping an eye on this and are in conversations with our local leaders and health officials in that region about potential actions that they can take to mitigate community spread,” he said.

Gov. Ralph Northam at Wednesday's news conference
Credit Governor's Office Livestream

Northam added that no one wants to talk about futher COVID-related restrictions, but the virus remains a serious threat. He also said health officials believe small, family gatherings appear to be a driving force behind the rising number of cases there. People need to heed public safety guidelines like wearing a mask and maintaining proper social distancing, Northam said, especially with Halloween approaching this weekend.

The governor also announced additional more funding from the federal CARES Act is on the way for small businesses.  

And Virginia has been able to secure a shipment of rapid antigen tests that will be distributed to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

In a bad place

Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee are in a bad place in this pandemic, according to the assessment of the chief infection prevention officer at Ballad Health.  The hospital system serves large portions of those areas.

Ballad reported Wednesday that it was treating 169 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.  Almost 90% of the hospital system’s intensive care unit beds are in use.  Ballad's human resources are also being stretched, both by the rise in cases and the quarantining of more than 180 staff members due to possible COVID-19 exposure. 

Hospital leaders are encouraging the public to stay home if possible and wear a mask if you do go out.