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Northam warns of restrictions as COVID-19 cases near previous peak

Northam warns of restrictions as COVID-19 cases near previous peak

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The Virginia Department of Health on Monday reported 1,505 new cases of COVID-19, marking the second-highest daily increase since the pandemic arrived in the state.

Monday’s case count was nearly triple the number of daily cases on July 1 when Gov. Ralph Northam lifted restrictions to allow for larger crowds, indoor dining and the return of most commerce.

Northam warned over the weekend that he might impose restrictions. He plans Tuesday to hold a briefing on the coronavirus as cases rise to the same level as May’s peak.

“We will be watching the public health data closely over the weekend — if the numbers don’t come down, we may have to take additional steps to blunt the spread of this virus. Wear a mask and practice physical distancing so we don’t have to move back,” Northam on Saturday posted to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The weekend numbers show Virginia’s cases continuing to surge. As of Monday, 86,072 people have been infected with the virus, or 1,505 more than reported Sunday. The last time case counts were that high was May 25 with 1,485 and May 26 with 1,615.

The department reports that the seven-day moving average number of cases is now at 1,100, mirroring the previous peak.

A week ago, that average was 962, and on July 1, when Virginia entered the third phase of reopening, the seven-day average stood at 527.

Virginia’s hospitals are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, with 54 more admissions reported Monday for a total of 1,200 inpatients.

Of them, 260 are in intensive care units and 140 are on ventilators.

The University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute in its weekly update reported that 12 of the state’s 35 health districts are experiencing “hockey stick” surges.

“It is crucial that Virginians clamp down now to prevent these surges from growing and spreading,” the report said.

Cellphone data indicate people are working, shopping and moving about at nearly pre-pandemic levels, the report said.

The models show that if the virus continues at its current pace, weekly cases will quadruple in the Roanoke metro area by Sept. 6. In the Blacksburg-Christiansburg metro area, weekly cases that now number 59 are projected to shoot up to 371 by Labor Day.

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