Northam: Va. COVID-19 cases have risen by 36 in 24 hours, officials look to private sectors for medical supplies

As the number of COVID-19 cases rise in the state, Gov. Ralph Northam said the commonwealth's access to medical supplies is limited. Photo illustration by Rey Carlson

Hannah Eason, News Editor

There are 290 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Virginia, up from 254 yesterday, with seven deaths as a result of the virus, an official said during a press conference held by Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday.

A man in his 70s with pre-existing health conditions died as a result of the virus in the Virginia Beach area, Virginia Deputy Commissioner of Population Health Laurie Forlano said, marking the seventh death in the state.

The state has received its first shipment of personal protective equipment, or PPE, from the national stockpile, Northam said. The shipment included masks, gowns and gloves. Another shipment is expected to arrive next week.

“We know it will not be enough,” Northam said, “and this is an issue nationwide.”

State officials have reached out to private companies for supplies, including one shipment from overseas, Northam said. He said dentistry, tech, coal and tobacco industries are some of the many with access to PPE.

Northam said officials have “promising leads” from Virginia manufacturers using production lines for PPE materials. Some distilleries, Northam said, are working to make hand sanitizer. The Department of Corrections is producing masks; workers made 25,000 masks Monday and are expected to reach that number again Tuesday.

More complex equipment like ventilators cannot be easily produced, but Northam said it can be moved to where it is needed. The governor said state officials in Maryland and D.C. have agreed to share excess materials.

“We will continue to keep working on all of these avenues to ensure that our medical professionals have the equipment they need to keep us safe,” Northam said. “Again, we are living in an unprecedented time and we are all working together to make sure Virginia is as prepared and as healthy as possible.”

Daniel Carey, Virginia secretary of health and human services, said organizing a national level of production for medical products would help Virginia and other states.

“That type of direction and coordination at the national level would help every state and every territory,” Carey said, “but it doesn’t mean we’re waiting.”

Northam announced Monday that all Virginia schools will close for the remainder of the academic year, and non-essential businesses will close Tuesday at midnight. This includes entertainment and recreational businesses, as well as barber shops and spas that cannot practice social distancing.

Essential businesses, like grocery stores, health care providers and pharmacies will remain open. Brick and mortar businesses are limited to 10 patrons at a time. Restaurants and food services are only permitted to serve takeout and delivery. 

Northam said for Virginia to make an economic recovery, it must get through the health crisis first.

“That doesn’t make these sacrifices any less painful,” Northam said. “We have students who miss their classmates and teachers, teachers who missed their students and high school seniors are facing their last semester of school with no prom, no graduation ceremony.”

According to the Virginia Department of Health, most positive cases among those who were tested are in Arlington, Fairfax and Peninsula area localities. As of Tuesday, there are 11 confirmed cases in the City of RIchmond, 10 in Chesterfield County and 14 in Henrico County.

Updates regarding COVID-19 from the Virginia Department of Health are available at vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

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