Local health district director says social distancing is our life for the near future, even after Virginia reopens


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Dr. Demetria Lindsay oversees two large health districts in Hampton Roads: Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

Lindsay met with WAVY News outside the Norfolk Public Health Building and explained that the main focus now is on testing — and more of it.

Moving forward, another focus will be maintaining social distancing, even after parts of Virginia begin to reopen.

“We have been collaborating with hospitals, city government, looking at how we can increase our testing capacity to learn more about the infection,” she said. 

The initiative leads to better access in disadvantaged communities.

“Testing in underserved communities that may not have ready access to get testing due to other challenges like transportation,” Lindsay said. 

Lindsay said the effort involved going out, meeting the most vulnerable and giving COVID-19 tests, 

“We are looking for the elderly, so we have been out in the last week and this week offering testing like to congregated senior living centers… We have also offered it in public housing, and for the homeless population, and we will continue to look at populations at higher risk to make sure they have access to testing,” she continued. 

It appears reaching out to those communities will be the best way to raise the level of testing that has so far come up short.

“I will say, we are not where we need to be with the capacity to test, but the effort is to increase that,” she said. 

Lindsay wants everyone to know she supports Gov. Ralph Northam’s decisions. Once Virginia reopens, expect social distancing to continue, she said.

“The practices we are talking about, social distancing, staying at home when sick, hand-washing, hygiene, all those things must stay in place to protect our community,” she said. 

We asked about re-opening Hampton Roads for business. Lindsay says it must be on a regional basis and phased in. 

“I do not advise the governor… We do need to coordinate with our neighbors. We are a region, we are not an island, and it has to be a collaborative process… I expect to see the social distancing in the telebusiness, telemeetings to help support social distancing.” 

10 On Your Side last saw Lindsay 49 days ago when she was briefing Virginia Beach City Council.  Since then, she says she’s been most impressed with how Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Hampton Roads have been dealing with coronavirus.

“It was a big surprise to me as a nation and state we were able to come up with a coordinated attack in terms of addressed social distancing,” she said. 

In Norfolk three have died, and 12 in Virginia Beach. Both of those keep the cities below the state average, and well below the national average. 

Why does Lindsay think that is? 

“I think it’s the canceling of a lot of events, closing facilities, closing our schools. It is our ability to really maximize our ability to social distance as a society,” she said. 

Doing that has impacted the amount people exposed, and the number of people infected, 

“The new normal will be social distancing, hand sanitizing, staying at home.  When you are sick, stay home,” Lindsay said. 

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