COVID-19 testing, tracing discussed today at Gov. Northam press conference

At today's press conference in Richmond, Gov. Ralph Northam and others gave updates on the state's COVID-19 situation and discussed ongoing methods of dealing with the novel virus. 

Northam stated that on Tuesday, 10,208 people received COVID-19 tests, which reached the marked goal of averaging 10,000 tests per day. Whether or not that pace will be sustained remains to be seen. 

The downward trend in COVID-19 statistics is positive, Northam said, and the continuation of that trend for two-week periods of time are necessary in moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and so on. Northam said the two-week trend is the criteria set forth by the Center for Disease Control and President Donald Trump. 

Trends, rather than numbers, are what Northam said public officials are looking at when deciding on when to ease restrictions and reopening the state. 

Also, Northam stated that available hospital capacity and personal protective equipment in those facilities are currently adequate to handle a potential surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Ways that people may be tested are through health care providers, health clinics and community testing events at targeted locations. 

Northam said that anyone who is concerned about the coronavirus for the protection of themselves or vulnerable loved ones may be tested at community testing events as long as there are adequate testing supplies available. However, priority is still given to those who have symptoms such as fever, cough or breathing difficulties.

The Virginia Department of Health is in the process of hiring 1,000 contact tracers and 200 communicable disease investigators in an effort to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. Northam said $58 million from the federal CARES Act financial package is being used toward that initiative. 

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver explained the tracing and investigation process once someone has tested positive for COVID-19. When an individual tests positive they are interviewed and asked who they have been in contact with, and then placed in isolation in their homes or if, necessary, in a hospital. 

People who have been exposed to the infected individual are then contacted and questioned about their current health status and placed under a period of self-quarantine, Oliver said. 

Communication continues with those in self-quarantine and they are directed to receive medical care if they show symptoms. While under observation, Oliver stated, names are not released to the public. Also, support services are offered to meet their needs such as obtaining food, medications and other necessities. 

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