COVID-19: What Virginians Need To Know

by | Mar 20, 2020 | VIRGINIA POLITICS

As the number of cases grows in the Commonwealth, Virginia is taking new precautions to limit the spread. Here are the best resources with live updates on the virus. 

As the COVID-19 virus spreads internationally and disrupts daily life, the world has been in a state of anxiety and panic, not knowing what to believe or how to react.

This article is intended to keep residents of the Richmond area and the Commonwealth of Virginia accurately informed on the facts, and to update readers on how Coronavirus is impacting the world, the nation, and the state. 

RELIABLE SOURCES

Local, state, and federal Health Departments, as well as university medical schools, are providing up-to-date websites for facts and figures pertaining to the current state of the virus.

The Center for Disease Control has opened an entire page dedicated to updates on all aspects of Coronavirus. The site lays out crucial information on several topics: 

The World Health Organization also provides updated information on the status of COVID-19 under their diseases tab, labeled Coronavirus Disease 2019. This site provides videos explaining the virus, a “situation dashboard” visually showing areas with cases, the latest news on the virus, and a link where one can donate to help fight the spread. 

FACTS ABOUT COVID-19

This novel coronavirus, otherwise referred to as COVID-19, is a new infectious disease never before seen in humans before the recent outbreak. It is believed to have spread from food markets in Wuhan, China. Coronaviruses are a family of illnesses affecting both humans and animals, causing respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. SARS and MERS are other well-known coronaviruses.

COVID-19 and the flu are similar in many ways, but also have crucial distinctions: both viruses are transmitted similarly, result in similar symptoms, and can be prevented in similar ways through hand washing and limiting social contact. While antiviral medicines and vaccines are available for the flu, no effective medicine or vaccine is available at this time for COVID-19.

Current infection and death rates can be found updated at The Washington Post (unlike most of the Post’s content, this article is available for free to non-subscribers), and it’s widely speculated that many more are infected than currently reported. This is due to lags in testing, but numbers are expected to grow as more tests become available in the U.S. According to experts, each COVID-19 sufferer infects between two to three others — a rate of infection twice as high as that of the flu. 

COVID-19 is also acutely different from the SARS outbreak in 2003. SARS was a much deadlier disease, but also less infectious. There have also been no SARS cases in 17 years. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 are typically mild for most people, and similar to those of the flu. They include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other respiratory illness symptoms, as well as loss of appetite and diarrhea. The World Health Organization suggests that people with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

COVID-19 spreads from person to person when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or exhales onto objects and surfaces that another person touches. The virus can also spread if someone inhales droplets that are expelled by other people nearby who are infected. 

Many with COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms. It is believed that a person can have coronavirus anywhere from two to 14 days before they begin to show symptoms of the virus, according to the CDC.

Approximately 80 percent of people who contract the virus do not require serious medical attention. Those most likely to require medical attention include the elderly and those with underlying medical problems like lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes. 

COVID-19 IN VIRGINIA

Total cases reported in Virginia: As of March 19, there are 94 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Virginia, resulting in 19 hospitalizations and two deaths. Current numbers here.

For accurate information on how coronavirus is impacting the Commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Health has provided a resource for COVID-19 in Virginia. This page shows a map, statistics of the number of people tested, and confirmed cases by locality. It also hosts the latest information on what the state health department is doing for businesses, schools, community partners, individuals, and travelers.

The News Center at VCU Health provides updates on how the medical center is monitoring and handling the situation. Other top-level medical schools also give reliable information on the virus, including the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the Coronavirus Resource Center from Harvard University, and the Coronavirus Information page from the University of California at Berkeley. 

Gov. Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia on March 12, one day after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global pandemic. The first case of COVID-19 in Virginia was detected on March 7. 

COVID-19 WORLDWIDE (UPDATED)

Situation reports are released by the World Health Organization daily, and they can be found here to view the most recent information.

Most countries have taken extreme measures to combat the virus, such as quarantines and travel restrictions. All 50 U.S. states have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.

All foreign nationals from China, Iran, Canada, and most European nations are barred from entering the U.S., along with anyone who visited these countries within the last two weeks. U.S. citizens who return home must come through one of 13 designated airports. 

COVID-19 IN THE U.S. 

The White House has advised people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, and to stay at home. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam instituted a ban on gatherings of more than 10 in the Commonwealth, which mainly applies to places like theaters, restaurants, and gyms. Law enforcement personnel have the power to enforce it. New York Gov. Cuomo announced on Monday that gatherings would be limited to 50 in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Non-essential services such as restaurants and theme parks have been closed across the country. 

Most K-12 schools, in addition to colleges and universities, have resorted to online teaching to avoid classrooms gatherings. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia initially intended to stay open despite the outbreak, until the governor limited gatherings.

Congress and the White House are currently considering coronavirus stimulus packages, which would include anything from cash payments (ranging from $1,000 to $2,000) to Americans to corporate tax cuts intended to boost businesses affected by the outbreak. 

PREVENTION AND PROTECTION 

There are simple steps for people to take in order to reduce their chances of getting COVID-19. Thoroughly washing your hands and keeping them away from your face is the first precaution to take. Hand sanitizer is effective when you’re unable to wash your hands, but should not be the sole means of cleansing. Keeping a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others is recommended as well, in order to prevent breathing in droplets from others sneezing or coughing within spreadable reach of the virus.

Although many people have resorted to wearing disposable surgical masks for protection, these masks are not recommended. They don’t fit tightly, and may allow tiny infected droplets to get into the nose, mouth, or eyes. 

Taking antibiotics (which only protect against bacterial infections, not viral infections like coronavirus) and wearing multiple masks are also ineffective methods to protect yourself from COVID-19. It is still safe to order online packages, because the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low — and so is the risk of catching the virus from a package that has travelled, and been exposed to different conditions. 

Stay up-to-date with the latest information via the Virginia Department of Health, CDC, and World Health Organization. And stay safe out there, Richmond.

Zach Armstrong

Zach Armstrong

Zach Armstrong is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in Mass Communications and minoring in Political Science. Zach aspires to be a journalist because, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, it “uses the English language as both a musical instrument and a political weapon.” He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and his hobbies include playing guitar and reading.




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