Virginia began lifting restrictions six weeks ago and has prevented roughly 178,160 new cases of COVID-19 since then, according to the latest update from the Virginia Department of Health on the University of Virginia model that it is using.

Virginia’s approach to COVID-19 has been a cautious one. The state was slow to put rigorous testing and tracing methods into place, which drew ire from House and Senate Republicans who questioned Gov. Ralph Northam’s effectiveness.

Northam started rolling back restrictions on some areas six weeks ago but pressed the brakes for regions that were not showing signs of improvement — Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County.

Slow and steady approaches, while not always popular, appear to have been effective in the long term, according to the VDH. 

“This cautious approach, along with increasing numbers of tests and contract tracers, has paid dividends,” officials at the VDH write in this week’s Data Insights update. “Statewide, the transmission rate dropped below 1.0, the rate at which we expect new cases to decline, on May 26, and has continued to decline.”

On Friday, the VDH reported Virginia has had 60,570 cases, 6,071 hospitalizations and 1,700 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Total figures include 2,593 probable cases, 36 probable hospitalizations and 104 probable deaths.

Virginia conducted roughly 7,276 tests Thursday, though that number will fluctuate as results continue to filter in. The state’s daily testing numbers have fluctuated up and down but averages remain high (9,570 tests per day since June 19) while the positivity rate continued to fall to 5.8% over a seven-day average on Friday.

Modelers with the VDH warned on Friday that although figures appear to be improving for Virginia some areas may be experiencing recurrences of COVID-19. Some regions are showing signs that if they continue on their current trajectory they may be at risk of running out of hospital beds.

According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, Virginia has 3,796 beds available. There are 854 hospitalized patients who have been diagnosed or are awaiting test results and 7,868 who have been hospitalized and released.

Of the 854 hospitalized patients, 219 are in intensive care units where 19% of the state's ventilators are in use.

While the Lord Fairfax Health District continues to show positive signs, some of the more concerning side effects from COVID-19 are inching closer to its borders.

The VDH announced on Friday that the first case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children was reported in the Central Shenandoah Health District. COVID-19 continues to affect older people more severely than children and young adults — 33% of hospitalizations and 76% of deaths statewide are attributed to people 70 or older — but as the virus continues to spread more effects are becoming known.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children affects children’s hearts and other organs, resulting in an array of symptoms that include fever, abdominal pain, rashes and swollen hands or feet. None of the five children in Virginia diagnosed with the syndrome have died.

The Lord Fairfax Health District reported on Friday that it has had 1,902 cases, 164 hospitalizations and 64 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Total figures include 216 probable cases, one probable hospitalization and four probable deaths.

The district has conducted 17,867 detection tests and has seen its positivity rate begin to climb in recent days but it remains at 8.6% over a seven-day average.

Local cases

Shenandoah County reported it has had 552 cases, 57 hospitalizations and 28 deaths.

Frederick County reported it has had 465 cases, 34 hospitalizations and four deaths.

Winchester City reported it has had 302 cases, 22 hospitalizations and 3 deaths.

Warren County reported it has had 269 cases, 19 hospitalizations and five deaths.

Page County reported it has had 266 cases, 28 hospitalizations and 24 deaths.

Clarke County reported it has had 48 cases, four hospitalizations and no deaths.

Contact Max Thornberry at mthornberry@nvdaily.com