Where we were, where we are, and where we’re going with COVID-19 in Hampton Roads

10 On Your Side

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — As we start moving toward phase 2 reopening Virginia, 10 on Your Side wanted to put it into perspective. 

10 On Your Side interviewed the director of the Hampton Peninsula Health District three times throughout this three-month pandemic, so we returned to get an overview to find out where we were, where we are, and where we’re going.

“Even when you’re driving on the interstate you never stop looking in the rearview mirror,” Dr. Steve Julian, the health district director, said.

Julian says we aren’t out of the woods yet, but we are on the way.

“We have to respect the virus. The virus is still out there.  It is still contagious, but we know so much more than we did the last time we talked and we know how to prevent it,” he said. 

He says it makes sense for Gov. Ralph Northam to take most of Virginia to phase 2, because the percentage of new cases is dropping below 10 percent in Virginia.

“I think people are very tired of the current status quo. It is very difficult to maintain, and I hope people will understand we are making it to the next step, and in doing that, we do it with the understanding that we are still going to social distance with masking and washing and all the things we’re asking for. It will allow us to move safely into this next phase.” 

Julian says phase 3 will likely kick in four to six weeks from now.

“And that will take us into the next phase of normal life,” he said.

One obstacle to that could be this: The daily protests with large throngs of people in Hampton Roads and across the nation. Julian says we need to maintain social distancing, 6 feet apart, and wear masks, 

“I hope it does not send us backwards, and I hope people respect that. I cringe only in the respect for the transmission of the virus. I’m totally supportive of the activities taking place,” he said. 

Julian says there is significant evidence masks work, and he thinks masks could be part of our lives forever.

“While it does not protect the individual wearing the mask as we would like for it to, there is mitigation to the spread of the disease to the person, but the great thing is it stops the spread of the disease to the people that you are among, the people that you’re around.” 

We also asked Julian about efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Hampton Roads.

“I’ve noticed, which is gratifying, but I just hope that people keep in mind we still have a deadly virus out there, and it is still spreading,” he said.  

So, what does Julian say about the data?

In three months, the death rate to positive cases for coronavirus in Virginia is at 3.04 percent. The numbers come directly from the Virginia Department of Health as of Wednesday June 3. 

The Accomack County population on the Eastern Shore has more positive cases than Virginia Beach because of the food processing plants, Julian says. Accomack county has 953 positive cases compared to the state’s largest city, Virginia Beach, which has 752 cases.  

“You have employment situations up there. They put people in close proximity to each other, and spread the virus more easily, and I think that’s the main headline there,” Julian added. 

It should also be noted Northampton County’s death rate to positive cases is at 51 percent. Northampton has 45 positive cases with 23 deaths.

Virginia Beach has that 752 cases with 23 deaths, which is a 3.06 percent death rate to positive case ratio and is slightly above the state average of 3.04 percent.

“If we’ve learned nothing about the virus, what we have learned [is] it spreads among people in close proximity, and that’s the reason why you see the number of cases in the Virginia Beach area.” 

Meanwhile, Norfolk has only six deaths with 539 positive cases, which is a death rate of only 1.11 percent.

“In terms of congregate living, I think it speaks to the fact that people have been taking very good care of those people, and responding to this virus.  I also think there is excellent medical care immediately available in Norfolk,” Julian stated. 

In Hampton, there are 212 cases and only 3 deaths which is a 1.41 percent death rate out of those who have tested positive.

“I think it shows we take very good care of monitoring in congregate living facilities. We are working closely with them, and they have been doing an excellent job responding to this pandemic,” he said. 

James City County was number one in death cases in Virginia for weeks, but the curve has tremendously flattened. The county has seen 211 cases and 15 deaths, which is a 7.11 percent death rate and two times the state average.

“You will see James City County has a particularly older demographic and they are obviously more susceptible to the disease like this.” 

In Suffolk, there have 318 positive cases and 33 deaths which is a 10.38 percent death rate.

“For Suffolk, I think it is due to the congregate facilities … like nursing centers … and processing plants.” 

In closing Dr. Julian says we “need to be vigilant, keep our guard up, and take care of each other as we move forward with COVID-19.”

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