As of Thursday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health reported that 6,189 people have been tested for COVID-19, 460 cases have returned positive and 65 people have been hospitalized by the virus. A total of 13 people have died.
In between the time the health department posted its latest figures and Thursday evening, at least three more positive cases were identified in the Lord Fairfax Health District, which spans Frederick, Winchester, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren and Page counties. Dr. Colin Greene, director of the health district, said that in addition to the first case reported in Warren, two others in the district had been identified.
There are nine positive cases in the district, Greene said, including two in Warren County, three in Shenandoah and four in Frederick County.
Though the positive cases are not spread throughout the district, Greene warned that residents in Page and Clarke counties should not take this virus lightly.
“Just because you live in Clarke County or Page County doesn’t mean there isn’t any disease out there,” Greene said. “There is significant evidence that as many as half of the people infected don’t have any symptoms.”
Authorities have also not determined how the local cases were contracted, Greene said. Initial positive tests don’t appear to show community spread but Greene said that it is safe to assume that community spread will be a factor in future positive results.
More positive results will be a result of more testing, something that the district has been steadily expanding for more than a week. Three drive-through testing sites have been established in the district: in Winchester, Front Royal and Woodstock.
Anyone who has a note from a physician saying they need to be tested can drive to one of these facilities, Greene said. The swab is collected quickly and then patients can leave, all while minimizing contact with the public and health care workers.
The next obstacle facing officials is the slow turnaround time for test results. While the state lab in Richmond often has results within 24 hours, private labs can take up to a week to return results. The danger, Greene said, is that people who have been tested may continue to go about their lives as normal, not sticking to strict quarantine guidelines before they know whether they have the virus or not.
Those slow times came as a result of a lack of experience and the recent implementation of testing via private labs.
“They just started operations,” Greene said. “We’re on new ground for practically everything here.”
Now there is evidence that private labs are working through their backlogs and there is hope that testing from all quarters will provide faster results to health authorities.
Slow reporting affects more than labs. The health department’s coronavirus site is updated once a day with figures it receives at 5 p.m. the day before. While Warren County appeared on the department’s map for the first time Thursday, Greene said that the case was identified last Friday.
Despite frustrations with slow reporting and impaired social movement, Greene said he is seeing positive reactions from people responding to the crisis.
“I don’t see people blowing it off,” Greene said. “I think everyone is taking it quite seriously … they understand this is a battle against a dangerous enemy and they are taking it in stride like Americans do.”