New COVID-19 cases identified as first phase of local reopening underway

Health officials reported that two new cases of the coronavirus were identified in Patrick County on Sunday.

The two cases include a man in his 60s, with known exposure to the virus, according to Nancy Bell, public information officer for the West Piedmont Health District. The man is isolated at home; his close contacts were identified and quarantined.

A female in her 50s, also with known exposure, was the second case identified Sunday, Bell said. The woman also is isolated at home. Her close contacts were identified and quarantined.

The new cases were announced two days after the first phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan began May 15. Under the first phase, restrictions put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were eased on certain businesses in several areas, as Virginia moved to a Safer at Home strategy.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday Virginia Beach and First landing State Park may reopen as part of the first phase, which also allows non-essential retail businesses to increase the number of persons allowed inside at a given time, from 10 to 50 percent of the store’s capacity.

The first phase also allows restaurants and breweries with outdoor seating permits to allow patrons to sit outside at 50 percent seating capacity, while maintaining delivery/take-out options.

Churches may open with 50 percent occupancy inside, while continuing to provide drive-in services. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families and personal grooming businesses, like hair salons and barbershops, also may reopen by appointment only and with strict social distancing guidelines observed. Only one client per provider is permitted inside.

State parks are open for day use only, with a 10-person limit in place; campgrounds may accept short-term reservations.

Even in this region, many restrictions remain in place. For example, the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people remains as do recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings.

All businesses are required to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces, and provide enhanced workplace safety measures.

Entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing; overnight summer camps will remain closed; gyms will remain closed, but may hold outdoor classes, with limitations.

Businesses are not required to re-open, and localities may consider local conditions before the guidelines are implemented.

“The Phase One policies are a floor, not a ceiling,” Northam said. He also noted that if the limitations/restrictions are not respected, he will scale the phase back until criteria is met.

Data shows that Northern Virginia is substantially higher than the rest of Virginia in the percentage of positive tests for COVID-19, with an estimated 25 percent positivity rate compared to the estimated 10 percent in the rest of Virginia.

Some of those localities will not implement the first phase until later this month, per requests from local officials in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park; and others. He also extended implementation of Phase 1 for other areas, including Richmond.

As of Tuesday, there were 9 confirmed cases in Patrick County; 48 confirmed cases in Henry County and 16 confirmed cases in Martinsville, including one child, aged 1 to 5-years-old. As of May 18, t totals in other surrounding areas included 30 cases, one death in Franklin County; four cases in Floyd County; 49 cases in Carroll County and 82 cases in the City of Galax.

For more about the changes in Phase One, visit www.virginia.gov/.

The Patrick County Chamber of Commerce has posted a Consumer Confidence survey on its social media page. Responses will be used to help local businesses reopen. For more information, visit the chamber’s Facebook page.

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