Virginia delays third phase of pandemic reopening; COVID-19 cases rise by nine in Northeast Tennessee

Mike Still • Jun 18, 2020 at 9:02 PM

FAIRFAX – Virginia is not entering Phase Three of the state’s business public space reopening yet.

Gov. Ralph Northam, during a press conference in Fairfax on Thursday, announced the delay in the third phase of the state’s Forward Virginia pandemic recovery plan. While citing improving health data metrics within Virginia, Northam said he and state health and emergency officials are monitoring state data as well as conditions in other states that range from stable infection rates to surges in COVID-19 cases.

“While we may not have the same spike in infections that many states are seeing right now, Virginians need to remain cautious and do the things that we know reduce transmission: wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. This virus is still with us, and we must continue to adapt our lives around it and ensure we are keeping our vulnerable communities safe.”

Northam did give more details on what a Phase Three would look like for businesses and public facilities in Virginia. The “Safer at Home” recommendations for people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems will remain in place, and wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces will remain in place.

The limit on public gatherings will rise from the current Phase Two’s 50 to 250 people, with social distancing guidelines remaining in effect along with increased sanitizing of high-contact surfaces and workplace safety measures to protect workers. Restaurants will still have to maintain six-foot separation between tables indoors and outside, while gyms and fitness centers will be able to operate at 75% occupancy.

Swimming pools will also be able to operate at 75% capacity.

Recreation and entertainment venues, including movie theaters, will be able to operate at 50% occupancy.

Details on Phase Three reopening guidelines can be found online at www.governor.virginia.gov.

Northeast Tennessee reported nine new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, while far Southwest Virginia case totals held level.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health’s tracking webpage (www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov), Washington County jumped from 93 to 99 cases and no deaths. Three counties reported one new case each and no new COVID-19-related deaths: Johnson at 26 cases and no deaths; Carter at 23 cases and one death; and Greene at 56 cases and two deaths.

Hawkins County remained at 37 cases and two deaths during the pandemic and Sullivan County at 71 cases and two deaths. Unicoi County stayed at 52 cases and no deaths.

Statewide, Tennessee reported 32,829 cases and 509 deaths — increases of 689 and 12, respectively.

TDH reported 652,160 total PCR swab tests for the pandemic on Thursday, or 9.55% of the state’s 6.83 million population. Positive results made up 38,194 of the total and negative results 613,966.

The county testing rates in Northeast Tennessee on Thursday were:

— Hawkins, 2,540 (50 positive, 2,490 negative) of 56,786 residents, or 4.47%

— Sullivan, 5,911 (74 positive, 5,837 negative) of 158,348, or 3.76%

— Washington, 5,473 (122 positive, 5,351 negative) of 129,375, or 4.23%

— Johnson, 2,355 (27 positive, 2,328 negative) of 17,788, or 13.24%

— Carter, 2,322 (26 positive, 2,296 negative) of 56,391, or 4.12%

— Greene, 3,196 (63 positive, 3,133 negative) of 69,069, or 4.63%

— Unicoi, 1,171 (57 positive, 1,114 negative) of 17,883, or 6.55%

In far Southwest Virginia, the LENOWISCO Health District stayed at 46 cases and four deaths on Thursday, according to the Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus). Lee County remained at nine cases and no deaths. Wise County remained at 27 cases and two deaths. Scott County stayed at eight cases and two deaths, and Norton stood at two cases and no deaths.

Statewide, Virginia reported a pandemic total of 56,238 cases and 1,586 deaths on Thursday — increases of 263 and three, respectively. The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and blood tests was 555,462 of 8.63 million state residents, or 6.44%. For nasal swab testing only, 499,599 people have been tested to date, or 5.79%.

In the LENOWISCO district, according to Thursday’s online data, 3,053 of the district’s 86,471 population, or 3.53%, have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19.

Test rates by locality were:

— Lee County, 605 of 23,423, or 2.58%

— Norton, 384 of 3,981, or 9.65%

— Wise County, 1,278 of 37,383, or 3.42%

— Scott County, 786 of 21,566, or 3.65%

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