A mass testing event at the Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Facility has resulted in the biggest one-day rise of COVID-19 cases in that county. That’s according to a spokeswoman for the Thomas Jefferson Health District, which reports 41 cases in Fluvanna this morning.
“The uptick in Fluvanna County cases is due to point prevalence testing done at the Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Facility,” said Kathryn Goodman, spokeswoman for the TJHD. Overall, the district reported 60 cases today, with 12 from Charlottesville and five from Albemarle.
Statewide, there are another 845 cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth as reported by the Virginia Department of Health this morning. The statewide seven-day average for positive tests has dropped to 6.9 percent today.
UVA reported another four cases yesterday, and their COVID-19 tracker now states that eleven percent of quarantine rooms are in use, up from eight percent the day before.
Governor Ralph Northam pointed to declining positive testing rates statewide as a sign of good news in the pandemic, but urged continued caution yesterday. Last week, Northam ended restrictions in the Hampton Roads such as early closings for restaurants after two and a half weeks of declining positive test rates.
“We however continue to keep an eye on some other regions in Virginia,” Northam said. “For example, Southwest Virginia is seeing more new cases per day per on average, 229, than any other region in our state, even Northern Virginia.”
Northam said southwest Virginia has fewer hospitals and medical capabilities so the Department of Health is monitoring the situation closely, even with declining positive test rates there. He said the rate was 8.1 percent on Tuesday.
The governor urged people to continue following physical and social distancing guidelines, and to wear masks indoors. He also announced that more than half a million people have downloaded the COVIDWISE tracking app.
“We estimate that’s around 12 percent of Virginians between ages 18 and 65,” Northam said.
The State Corporation Commission has agreed to extend a moratorium on utility cut-offs through October 5. The moratorium had been set to expire at midnight, six months after it was first issued. In a release the SCC indicated there would be no further extension.
“The mounting costs of unpaid bills must eventually be paid, either by the customers in arrears or by other customers who themselves may be struggling to pay their bills,” reads the statement. “Unless the General Assembly explicitly directs that a utility's own shareholders must bear the cost of unpaid bills, those costs will almost certainly be shifted to other paying customers.”
“The budget I sent to the legislature includes a moratorium on utility disconnections, a repayment plan structure, and a debt forgiveness program,” Northam said.
Yesterday the Virginia Department of Health reported 96 deaths, the result of a data entry backlog. Health Commissioner Norm Oliver commented on this at the press conference.
“Occasionally there will be a spike as we have in this number, and that just represents catching up with death certificates which come in much later than what we get from the hospitals,” Oliver said. “If you look at a different graph which is the deaths recorded by the date of death, you’ll get a much better picture of the course of the disease and you’ll see that we had a peak earlier in the year and it has been leveled off and we have been in the low teens for many weeks now.”
More from the Governor’s Press Conference will be in the next installment of the Charlottesville Quarantine Report.
Early voting season begins this Friday, and Governor Northam said yesterday that the Department of Elections has received 790,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail. Jim Nix is a member of the Charlottesville Electoral Board.
“People have been getting the word on voting early either in-person or by mail,” Nix said on the September 15, 2020 edition of C’Ville 360. “We already had as of yesterday morning about 6,500 requests for ballots by mail which is astounding.”
Normally in a presidential year we would have fewer than 2,000 through the whole cycle according to Nix. Melissa Morton is Charlottesville’s registrar.
“Currently my team is processing and preparing the absentee mail ballots to go out this Friday on September the 18th,” Morton said. “We have approximately 9,000 mail ballots that will go out.”
Morton said a dropbox for absentee or early ballots will be installed this week and social distancing measures are being placed inside her office for anyone who decides to vote in-person. You can watch the rest of the program here.
In meetings today, the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee meets at noon and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors meets at 1 p.m. The latter group has a long day ranging from a discussion of a special exception to the county’s home stay ordinance for a property at 2405 Northfield Road, and an update on long range planning in Albemarle. There are several public hearings in the evening, including a developer’s request to reduce the scope of an intersection onto Route 20 south of Piedmont Virginia Community College. There’s also a renewal of the COVID-19 ordinance passed in late July, and a hearing on a county-initiated amendment of the zoning ordinance to place more restrictions on the use of fill dirt in the rural area.
Before we go today, one small correction from yesterday. All of the PTO’s for Charlottesville city schools have come together to raise funds for supplies for virtual learning, and a press release yesterday announcing a matching opportunity gave the incorrect total raised so far. The actual amount was $56,500 but hopefully by now that figure has increased already! If you want to learn more, click through to the link.