Health officials, Northam blame COVID-19 case spike on non-compliance with masks, social distancing


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia’s new COVID-19 cases are spiking, according health experts who closely monitor the trends.  

Virginia reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, its most in more than a month, with nearly 500 of those cases in the Hampton Roads region.

Norfolk reported a record 136 new cases with Virginia Beach adding 144. Chesapeake also added 62 new cases.

No one is watching those rising numbers more closely than Dr. Demetria Lindsay, who is the Virginia Beach and Norfolk Health Director. 

“These are disturbing indicators.  We are trending in the wrong direction for many of these indicators,” Lindsay told us outside the Norfolk District Health Department.

The region is now averaging more than 350 cases per day, about 5 times its previous high in daily cases from the beginning of the pandemic through late June. With the new cases, the percent of positive cases has also gone up, rising sharply in the three localities above and others.

New cases Wednesday by region:

  • Eastern District (includes Hampton Roads) – 494, steady rise
  • Northern – 241, nearly 100 over 7-day average
  • Central – 146, cases steady
  • Southwest – 93, steady
  • Northwest – 110, steady

Below: VDH now breaks down new cases in the Eastern District (Hampton Roads) and other regions

Deaths and hospitalizations locally are also up slightly from June. Statewide deaths are trending down overall, with hospitalizations trending up overall. Both lag cases.

The increases in the percent of positive tests in Hampton Roads has also pushed Virginia’s 7-day average above 7% for the first time since June 12.

Here’s the latest count for Hampton Roads and the whole Tidewater region (numbers are cumulative)

Accomack: 1,045 cases, 72 hospitalized, 14 deaths
Chesapeake: 1,441 cases, 160 hospitalized, 23 deaths​ (+62 cases, +1 hospitalizations)
Franklin: 80 cases, 6 hospitalized, 3 death (+2 cases, +1 hospitalization) ​
Gloucester: 79 cases, 11 hospitalized, 1 death​ (+3 cases)
Hampton: 592 cases, 42 hospitalized, 4 deaths​ (+24 cases)
Isle of Wight: 240 cases, 17 hospitalized, 9 deaths​ (+3 cases, +1 hospitalized)
James City County: 388 cases, 59 hospitalized, 16 deaths​ (+10 cases, +1 hospitalized)
Mathews: 7 cases, 2 hospitalized, 0 deaths​
Newport News: 900 cases, 51 hospitalized, 10 deaths​ (+44 cases, +2 hospitalized)
Norfolk: 1,742 cases, 133 hospitalized, 18 deaths​ (+136 cases, +4 hospitalizations, +2 deaths)
Northampton: 275 cases, 41 hospitalized, 28 deaths​ (+1 case)
Poquoson: 23 cases, 2 hospitalized, 0 death​s
Portsmouth: 794 cases, 89 hospitalized, 19 deaths​ (+33 cases, +1 hospitalized)
Southampton: 186 cases, 10 hospitalized, 11 deaths​
Suffolk: 633 cases, 69 hospitalized, 42 deaths​ (+21 cases, +1 hospitalized)
Virginia Beach: 2,137 cases, 142 hospitalized, 34 deaths​ (+144 cases, +2 hospitalized, +2 deaths)
Williamsburg: 87 cases, 12 hospitalized, 6 deaths​ (+2 cases)
York: 180 cases, 10 hospitalized, 3 deaths​ (+4 cases)

Key local metrics

  • 489 new cases (488 in Hampton Roads)
  • 4 new deaths
  • 14 new hospitalizations

7-day average for percent of positive cases

Chesapeake – 14.3% — rising sharply
Eastern Shore – 2.2% — falling
Hampton – 11.5% — rising sharply
Norfolk – 16.8% — rising, but appearing to top out around 17%
Peninsula — 8.4% — rising
Portsmouth — 12.4 % — mostly trending down
Virginia Beach — 11.2% — rising sharply
Western Tidewater — 8.1% — trending up overall

Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday said he’s monitoring the rise in cases in Hampton Roads and says it could move back to phase 2. In the meantime he’s calling on businesses to step up enforcement of face covering requirements and other health guidelines, saying their business license can be suspended if they fail to act.

Northam says non-compliance with face covering rules and physical distancing in restaurants and other gathering places is leading to the increases, and there’s been a significant uptick in cases (about 250% since May) in people ages 20-29.

Lindsay says more than four months into the pandemic not enough people are wearing masks.

“We started to see these rising numbers particularly the spike in cases for 20 to 29-year-olds.  We are starting to see a pattern of behavior in those investigations…the issue here is human behavior.  We have relaxed our effort, and we need to focus again on following the public health measures.” 

Lindsay says we are spiking out of control and need to get back to the basics, 

“Those measures are practice social distancing, wearing our masks, using proper hand hygiene frequently, staying away from others as much as possible, and avoiding crowds.”

After four months of knowing what needs to be done to combat COVID-19, our human behavior is critical to stemming the spread — and that is practicing social distancing and wearing masks.  

Over in Chesapeake, that city is spiking numbers higher than the seven-day moving average.  

Chesapeake Health Director Nancy Welch, who has been instrumental in guiding free COVID-19 testing events locally, says that city is moving ahead with enforcement against businesses not following guidelines.

“We don’t have a vaccine, we don’t have medicine, all we have is each other. That’s all we have… We have to help each other… by doing the things necessary to stop the spreading.” 

Virginia Beach Police spokesperson MPO Linda Kuehn told us police can only enforce trespassing if the person has been asked to leave and doesnt.

“We will only respond to and enforce a trespassing situation if an establishment has asked someone to leave their property and the person refuses.” 

Statewide numbers:

New cases: (+ 1,084, 73,527 total) — trending up overall, especially in Hampton Roads
New deaths (+15, 1,992 total) — Deaths in single digits the last three days after recent high numbers, “Deaths by day of death,” which shows the actual day a COVID-19 patient died, continues to decline from peak of 37 per day in early May, but the reported deaths are up after dipping in June
Hospitalizations (-46, 1,081 total) — trending back up overall after falling to low of 783 patients on July 6
Testing (7.2% 7-day average above 7% for first time since June 12, trending up due to increases in Hampton Roads)

This article will be updated. For more information from the Virginia Department of Health, click here.

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