Update from Dr. Molly O’Dell for May 13 Edition

Many changes are happening every day, whether it is the current count of positive COVID-19 cases, new guidelines provided by CDC, or the restrictions in place for each state. It’s all so much to process.

One thing we do know to be true, despite these changes, is that social distancing is our best weapon at this current time and will help the number of cases decline. As many may be aware, Virginia’s Governor Northam has created a blueprint for easing public health restrictions called Forward Virginia. “Phase One” means some businesses will re-open with strict safety restrictions, which we can see potentially within days. Even if businesses begin to lift restrictions, our guidance for safety does not change. We are still safer at home, and we need to continue social distancing, proper hand washing, and it is important to wear face coverings if we need to go out. Teleworking and offering services and products through virtual, telephone, and other no contact methods are safest and will protect us all.

On a local level, we are responding to several outbreaks in places where social distancing is difficult – such as congregate living facilities and other sites. While it is unfortunate that the virus has spread in specific areas, the low number of cases in the broader community indicates social distancing and proper hand washing and cleaning are working to flatten the curve. Our teams of epidemiologists, communicable disease doctors, public health nurses, support staff and volunteers are working with each of the outbreaks to provide testing, case investigations, contact tracing, and troubleshooting to prevent future cases. We have to make sure that we protect our most vulnerable from becoming ill and dying if we open up more activities.

We are working with the state to increase our testing resources. Currently, if symptomatic, speak with your primary care physician to find out if you need testing. The health department is processing tests for persons who fall into the following target populations: workers and residents in congregate settings (e.g., long-term care facilities, shelters, prisons, or jails), un- or underinsured persons, and those identified as part of outbreak investigations and contact investigations. We are prioritizing testing for places with group living because that is where we see more people contracting COVID-19 at the current time. We appreciate being able to get test results within 24 hours from our state (public) lab as well as Virginia Tech’s Fralin Biomedical laboratory.

We have received some questions about antibody tests and if there are local plans to use them. These tests have no ability to diagnose COVID-19 and are not recommended for use by the Virginia Department of Health.

We are also working with some of our local businesses and organizations to help them interpret guidance from CDC. Information is quickly changing, but it is important for businesses to understand, feel prepared, and model safe practices to help our community stay as safe as possible.

Public call center: 1-855-949-8378, open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Virginia’s health is in your hands. Do your part, stop the spread.


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