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Coronavirus Hits New Peak in VA

Graph and Northam
The 7-day moving average of cases in Virginia has now surpassed its previous August peak. (Screenshot of briefing)

*VPM News intern Connor Scribner contributed to this report.

Gov. Ralph Northam delivered the sobering news that Virginia’s COVID-19 outbreak has hit a new peak at a press conference Tuesday.

The seven-day moving average of daily cases in Virginia now stands at 1,186, surpassing the previous peak of 1,079 in August. According to data compiled by COVID Exit Strategy, a site tracking the national spread of coronavirus, Virginia is now experiencing “uncontrolled spread” of COVID-19, meaning outbreaks are occurring throughout Virginia communities.

Northam warned Virginians that increasing case counts could spiral out of control, especially as winter and the holiday season approach.

“We all need to step up our vigilance and our precautions, especially as we head toward the Thanksgiving holiday,” he said.  “You should take precautions around anyone who does not live in your own house. Yes, even if they are your family.”

Northam announced three new contracts with COVID-19 testing labs, which will participate in Virginia’s “One Lab” network. The network is an effort to direct testing capacity towards areas given high priority by VDH, including potential outbreaks, areas experiencing surges in testing demand and vulnerable areas such as nursing homes.

In contrast to the somber news about coronavirus spread, Northam expressed optimism regarding recent news of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer. However, the governor urged Virginians to continue social-distancing and other precautionary measures: “We should all remember that this isn’t the magic bullet - any approved vaccination will still take months to distribute.”

The governor also highlighted a new grant to Virginia food banks, totalling $7 million in CARES Act funding. The non-profit Feeding America estimates that food insecurity in Virginia has increased by 32 percent since the pandemic began.

He also requested that the General Assembly approve an additional $650,000 in funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides food assistance to more than 38,000 Virginians. The extra funding was approved in a budget passed by the General Assembly on November 9.

Regarding election turnout, Northam praised Virginia’s new early voting laws, under which 2.8 million voters cast absentee or early in-person ballots - a sharp increase from 566,000 such ballots cast in 2016. Overall turnout, according to the governor, increased to 73%, from 72% in 2016.

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