State officials announced Friday that COVID-19 has seeped into every region of Virginia after Southwest Virginia reported its first positive case.
Testing capacity continues to improve in the commonwealth as the Virginia Department of Health reported that it has conducted more than 2,000 tests and confirmed 114 cases.
Gov. Ralph Northam put his doctor’s hat on during his news conference on Friday, noting that the increased stress people may be feeling from prolonged isolation is a harmful side effect that must be dealt with carefully.
“I know that this is hard on people’s morale. It is very very stressful. It is scary.,” Northam said. “We are all experiencing big unwanted changes and we don't know how long this will all last.”
Officials do not know how long it will be before COVID-19 can be contained but they are working on speeding up the process.
Norman Oliver, Virginia’s health commissioner, said on Friday that the criteria for administering tests will expand. Up to the present, he said, tight rules on who was tested were in place.
Strict guidelines on test candidates, as well as limited available tests, have kept Virginia and U.S. officials from knowing how many COVID-19 cases they are dealing with.
Virginia now can test more than 1,000 new people, giving authorities comfort with the idea of expanding who they test. The number is still far short of what is necessary, Oliver said, but it is progress in the right direction.
In the meantime, he said, everyone needs to continue practicing social distancing as it is the only surefire way to prevent the virus from spreading.
"We do not have a medicine for COVID-19. We do not have a vaccine for COVID-19, the only thing we have to prevent the spread of this disease is social distancing so we need to all do that,” Oliver said.
Dr. Denise Toney, director at the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, said that Virginia does have enough tests to respond to all of the requests for testing it has fielded so far.
Along with the state's testing capacity, Oliver said the state’s supplies of respirators and protective materials for health care workers is being replenished as well. Earlier this week the Department of Health received close to 200,000 respirators, Oliver said.