Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam delayed implementation of Phase 3 of reopening businesses and lessening restrictions from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic to the end of this week but that was apparently too soon, so he delayed it again — to July 1 (Wednesday of next week).
But those who have ventured to places like Myrtle Beach in South Carolina have returned to the area with more than sunburns. Too many of them brought home the virus.
The Virginia Health Department (VDH) is recommending that anyone who visited Myrtle Beach “self-quarantine” themselves at home for 14 days after the popular vacation spot turned into a “hot zone” of infections.
At least 27 people in four counties of our area came home from the beach and tested positive for the virus. Another five cases are considered “probable.” Many of them are young people of high school or college age.
“Myrtle Beach seems to be a hot spot,” said Dr. Molly O’Dell of VDH in a health briefing this week.
With cases, hospitalizations and deaths continuing to rise in the Old Dominion, Gov. Northam has delayed implementation of Phase 3, with will increase the cap for social gatherings from 50 to 350. The new Phase also removes caps on restaurants and retail.
Fitness centers can serve up to 75 percent capacity while barber shops and beauty salons can serve walk-ins without appointments but social distancing must be maintained by those waiting for service.
Masks remain mandatory for entrance to closed spaces but that order is widely-ignored in Virginia, particularly in grocery and drug stores unless the owners insist. A visit to Food Lion in Floyd Monday showed more than half he shoppers in the aisles without masks.
“People have become weary of the instructions on how to avoid being sick, which is most unfortunate,” Dr. O’Dell told The Roanoke Times.
Disregard for preventions like masks, social distancing, frequent washing of hands is widespread, she says and health officials admit it is getting worse.
Northam, in his briefing Monday, said the safest place for most Virginians is still at home. He urged those who could to stay home and not go out.
The Associated Press reports that increases of COVID-19 increased by more than 2,000 and doubled in just nine days after hotels in Myrtle Beach reopened.
Dr. O’Dell says infections in our area have not peaked.
“We are definitely continuing to see an uphill climb, and I will say the climb is a little steeper,” she said Tuesday during a weekly teleconference with reporters.
Deaths in Virginia have risen since May 28 and reached 1,645 as of the Tuesday morning report by VDH. Outbreaks have risen at restaurants, nursing homes and construction sites.
Four cases were found at Skyline Nursing Home near Floyd in tests by the National Guard. Virginia changed its policy of not identifying nursing homes and began releasing the names of facilities with outbreaks.
“Now that there are more cases in these facilities, we can make an exception and release this information without compromising confidentiality,” the governor said. He cited “misinformation” and problems with federal data as some of the reasons for the decision to release.
Northam, however, still refuses to identify businesses with outbreaks of the virus. He cites Virginia’s privacy code.
“It all boils down to whether it’s a public health risk,” he claims.
(This article includes information from Laurence Hammack and Amy Friedenberger of The Roanoke Times and Ashley Spinks of The Floyd Press.)