The Virginia Department of Health announced Wednesday that 900 new COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the state, a dramatic increase in testing activity that has raised the total number of tests to 5,370 from 4,470 a day earlier.
That increase brought with it 101 new cases of the coronavirus now being reported in Virginia, including one in Roanoke County and a second case in Bedford County. Details on those patients were unavailable.
As of noon Wednesday, Virginia had logged 391 cases, with 59 hospitalizations, according to the health department’s website. The department updates statewide numbers each day at noon, with totals that had been verified as of 5 p.m. the day before. Not counted in the total was a case announced late Wednesday afternoon of a person in their 60s in Washington County who is in isolation at home.
The health department also reported two new deaths, bringing the statewide total to nine.
During Gov. Ralph Northam’s briefing Wednesday, state epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said the five most recent fatal cases include two residents of the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Henrico County. The others were two people in the Peninsula Health District and another in the Pittsylvania-Danville region.
Peake acknowledged that other residents of that Henrico County facility are being treated for the coronavirus.
Locally, Carilion Clinic on Wednesday said it has now treated six patients in the Roanoke region who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Only one of those has required hospitalization, Carilion said, while the other five remain self-isolated in their own homes.
That’s an uptick of two cases since Carilion said Tuesday it had treated four regional patients for the coronavirus.
Carilion has not released the localities of people testing positive for COVID-19.
Last week, a Botetourt County woman in her 80s became the first positive case in the Roanoke region. The woman went to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital on March 16 with symptoms of the virus, was tested and admitted to an isolation unit. Her test result from a commercial lab came back positive March 19.
On Tuesday, a positive result was announced for a Radford University student. That patient, a woman in her 20s, is self-isolating at an off-campus location after returning from spring break, according to the university.
The school did not release the student’s identity or information and said it had not been in contact with her. It was not clear where or by whom the student had been tested.
Northam also reiterated his earlier predictions that the COVID-19 pandemic is a threat that would likely take months rather than weeks to resolve.
“We are just at the beginning of this,” he said. “We’re going to see these numbers, unfortunately, continue to rise.”
Northam said he hopes to increase benefits tied to the Virginia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, starting this week and across the next two months.
“I hope that when families can get more food in one trip, they will make fewer trips,” he said.
He also addressed recent activity on the Lynchburg campus of Liberty University, where President Jerry Falwell Jr. this week welcomed more than 1,000 students back from spring break. Most other colleges and universities across Virginia have urged students to remain at home as a precaution against the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Northam acknowledged to reporters that he does not have the authority to close Liberty, but he invoked Scripture, specifically 1 Corinthians 4, saying: “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. Proving faithful means providing clear and consistent guidance.”
“I would suggest that President Falwell look to actions of the leaders of Virginia’s flagship universities for how to set a strong example in this health crisis and to please reconsider his message that invites and encourages students to return to campus,” Northam said.