COVID-19 positivity rate at its highest since May, Richmond region remains below state average

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the COVID-19 positivity rate continues to rise across Virginia, how is the Richmond region impacting this metric?

The current statewide 7-day positivity rate is 15.8% which is the highest rate Virginia has seen since May. Cases have been surging in the state since the beginning of December.

Throughout the pandemic, 8News has been tracking the cases and deaths in the Richmond area counties. The health districts in the region include Chesterfield, Henrico, Chickahominy, Crater, and Richmond.

All of these health districts have testing positivity rates below the statewide average. According to the Virginia Department of Health, Richmond is the lowest of the five with a rate of 11.4%, followed by Henrico with 13.2%, Crater with 13.8%.

The testing positivity rates in Richmond since March. (Graph from VDH)

Chickahominy and Chesterfield health districts come much closer to the state average. Chesterfield Health District which includes Chesterfield, Colonial Heights and Powhatan has a rate of 15.6%. Chickahominy comes just below that at 15.1%, the region includes Charles City, Goochland, Hanover and New Kent.

While the Richmond region ranges moderate to low in comparison to the average there are other health districts with over double the average rate. Lenowisco Health District in the very far southwestern tip of the state has a 7-day positivity rate of 32.4%.

The Hampton Roads region has multiple districts with above average rates. Hampton, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and the Peninsula are all currently trending higher than the state total.

Percent positivity rates are especially important to watch as school districts use them to determine whether or not to have students return to or remain in the classroom. Right now, the Virginia Department of Health has listed every city and county in the Commonwealth at the highest risk of virus transmission in schools based on case count alone.

But when based off of a 14-day positivity rating, certain districts including Richmond City and Goochland are rated as higher risk instead of highest risk.

Cases and deaths for each county in the Richmond region can be located below:

  • Charles City County: 195 cases, 8 deaths
  • Chesterfield County: 13,059 cases, 172 deaths
  • City of Colonial Heights: 614 cases, 28 deaths
  • City of Hopewell: 883 cases, 10 deaths
  • City of Petersburg: 1,444 cases, 33 deaths
  • City of Richmond: 9,158 cases, 94 deaths
  • Dinwiddie County: 916 cases, 15 deaths
  • Goochland County: 612 cases, 7 deaths
  • Hanover County: 3,828 cases, 72 deaths
  • Henrico County: 12,337 cases, 293 deaths
  • New Kent County: 646 cases, 5 death
  • Powhatan County: 865 cases, 6 deaths
Coronavirus Updates
  • A Wisconsin pharmacist told police he tried to ruin hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine because he felt the shots weren’t safe, a prosecutor said Monday.

  • A Florida state lawmaker is calling for Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago to be shut down after he says the venue violated the county’s mask order during a New Years Eve party attended by Donald Trump Jr.

  • GRTC announced two more employee cases of COVID-19 today, meaning the transit authority has had seven workforce members test positive for the virus since last Monday.

  • An employee working in the emergency department at San Jose Medical Center has died due to COVID-19 complications after an outbreak at the California hospital, a representative said.

  • The Augusta Correctional Center currently has 122 inmates battling COVID-19 at the prison. Over the weekend, one inmate at Augusta passed away due to complications from the virus.

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says his state has found its first case of the “UK” strain of the coronavirus, raising concerns about threats to hospital capacity should it spread rapidly in the state.

  • Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring has issued a consumer alert for Virginians urging them to be wary of scammers who are looking to take advantage of the $600 federal relief payments.

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to combat a fast-spreading new version of the coronavirus.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, along with other health experts, will participate in a special virtual event this Friday discussing the facts and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine’s distribution in Virginia.

  • To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep front line personnel and patients safe, HCA Virginia announced adjustments to the visitation policy at a few area hospitals and emergency care facilities.

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After pandemic ends, schools expected to face challenges, according to the Virginia State Board of Education

A teacher sits in an empty classroom and prepares materials for children at a closed school in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Amid widespread efforts to curb the new wave of coronavirus infections in one of the hardest hit European countries, the Czech Republic closed again all its schools on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) – In its annual report to the governor and General Assembly on the condition and needs of public schools in Virginia, the State Board of Education says that the challenges schools face due to COVID-19 won’t be going away with the pandemic.

“This has been an extraordinary year for public education in Virginia, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed huge demands on our schools, students and parents. The pandemic has highlighted areas of need for Virginia’s public education system to ensure equity of opportunity for all students.”

Daniel A. Gecker, President of the Board of Education

The board’s annual report notes that as school divisions pivoted this year to support students attending remotely and in-person — as well as a combination of both — four factors complicated efforts to provide quality remote instruction.

  • Lack of broadband infrastructure and access for all students;
  • Lack of devices for each student to access virtual instruction;
  • Lack of capacity of school divisions and professional development for educators to support the shift to virtual teaching and learning; and
  • Inadequacy of virtual instruction to meet the needs of students with disabilities and young learners.

Across Virginia, public school enrollment is down by more than 45,000 students, compared to the 2019-20 school year.

In its report, the Board of Education notes that since school funding in the commonwealth is largely allocated on a per-pupil basis, enrollment declines caused by COVID-19 are expected to negatively impact local school division budgets when state funding is adjusted in the spring to reflect actual, rather than projected, enrollment.

The Board is recommending that the 2021 General Assembly hold divisions harmless for short-term enrollment losses so that schools can still receive proper funding.

The Board also noted that despite recent increases in state support, an external analysis this year has found that state per-pupil spending for public schools remains below pre-Great Recession levels.

The annual report is also warning that Virginia continues to face a shortage of quality educators entering and remaining in the classroom and predicts that the pandemic will only further enhance the shortage and increase teacher turnover.

Virginia ranks 33rd in the country in average teacher salaries according to data for the 2018-19 school year.

The annual report advocates for the adoption and funding of the Standards of Quality the Board of Education initially prescribed in 2019, and re-prescribed in September.

The annual report also reaffirms the priorities and goals outlined in the Board of Education’s 2017 comprehensive plan, including:

  • Providing high-quality, effective learning environments for all students;
  • Advancing policies that increase the number of candidates entering the teaching profession;
  • Encouraging and supporting the recruitment, development and retention of well-prepared and skilled teachers and school leaders; and
  • Ensuring successful implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and the accountability system for school quality as embodied in the 2017 Standards of Accreditation.

Below, you’ll find the 2020 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia.

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State HHS official urges caution in holiday celebrations – The Suffolk News-Herald

While the holidays can be stressful during a normal year, it’s proving even more so during the coronavirus pandemic, as families grapple with planning not only a festive holiday but also a safe one.

Dr. Vanessa Walker Harris, deputy secretary of Health and Human Resources for Gov. Ralph Northam and senior policy advisor for State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver, said she understands. She had plans to spend the holidays with family in Ohio, but with a surge of COVID-19 cases in Virginia and across the country, she made the decision to keep her family at home.

She cautioned state residents to do the same.

“What we really want people to remember is the safest thing to do this holiday season is to stay at home,” Walker Harris said during a Zoom interview. “It’s hard, but it is the best way to protect you and your family. And I get it. People are tired of the pandemic.”

Walker Harris said people should connect virtually. If connecting on a computer is not an option, she advises reaching out over the phone. It’s important to find ways to connect that allow people to stay at home and remember to wear a mask while outside the home, keep physical distance and wash hands frequently.

“We’re asking Virginians … to connect with friends and family virtually to meet, and even to have virtual meals, and to consider new traditions,” Walker Harris said. “Maybe do a gratitude activity where you write down the things you’re grateful for and share those with family and friends, maybe even over a Zoom meeting.”

Like other state health officials, Walker Harris notes the gatherings of small groups of friends and family outside their household, along with cooler temperatures driving people to spend more time inside, where the virus spreads more easily from person to person, that is helping drive the current surge in COVID-19 cases. Statewide seven-day positivity rates hover near 11%.

“It’s the mixture of these circumstances that are particularly concerning as we head more into the winter holiday season,” Walker Harris said. “We understand that people are tired of the pandemic, and they really just want to hang out with family and friends.”

For those experiencing more of a mental or emotional toll due to the pandemic, not being able to partake in their normal traditions and not being able to spend time with loved ones, Walker Harris said there is help for those who need it.

“The holiday season can be very stressful in normal times,” Walker Harris said. “And overlaying that with the COVID pandemic can make things that much more difficult.”

She noted that the state Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services has established the VA Copes Mental Health Warm Line at People can call 877-349-6428 and get support from counselors if they are experiencing stress, anxiety or are having difficulty coping with the pandemic and need someone to talk to.
Walker Harris said state agencies are working to keep vulnerable populations in mind during the holiday season and ensuring there are resources to address behavioral health needs.

The main message for Virginians? Stay home and stay safe.

“What I’d really like people to remember is we were able to flatten the curve in the spring, and we can do that again if we all work together,” Walker Harris said, “remembering those simple measures like washing your hands, watching your distance and wearing a mask.

“And then for the holiday season, staying at home. Working together as Virginians, watching out for one another and taking those measures, particularly staying at home for the holiday season, we can stop the virus from spreading if we work together.”

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