“The Commonwealth is taking this public health issue seriously, and we have a plan in place to respond to COVID-19,” said Governor Northam. “The Virginia Department of Health has some of the country’s leading public health experts on its team, with deep experience guiding public health emergency responses, and I have great confidence in their ability to guide Virginia in this situation.”
Last month, the Trust for America’s Health ranked Virginia’s public health emergency preparedness in the “high performance tier” among all states. The Commonwealth earned high marks for emergency management accreditation, hospital safety, and public health lab testing capacity. The findings came in the report, Ready or Not: 2020 Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism.
Virginia’s public health and safety experts established an Incident Management Team in January, shortly after scientists first identified the virus in Asia. The team of experts from across state government is leading the Commonwealth’s planning and response. This team is in regular and close communication with government and private sector partners.
As of this week, potential cases of COVID-19 will be tested at Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, rather than being tested at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Virginia-based testing is expected to generate results within a few hours, allowing for faster responses.
Although COVID-19 is not spreading in Virginia and the risk here is low, officials said Virginians can take precautions to prevent the potential spread of this disease:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Officials also warned against misinformation and the stigmatization of certain populations, particularly Asian Americans and individuals of Asian descent.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, which was first identified during an outbreak investigation in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. Risk of infection is dependent on exposure. Close contacts of people who are infected are at greater risk of exposure.