Governor Ralph Northam had a lot to say yesterday, some good and some not-so-good. In this post I’ll focus on the positive: Beginning Friday, most of Virginia will move to “Phase Two” of the rollback of COVID-19 emergency decrees.
Under Northam’s kinder, gentler Vulcan Death Grip, the maximum number of individuals permitted in social gatherings will increase from 10 to 50. Restaurants will offer indoor dining at 50% occupancy. Fitness centers can reopen at 30% occupancy. Other public venues — museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor sporting and performing-arts venues — can reopen without restrictions: Current restrictions will continue for religious services, “non-essential” retail, and personal grooming services. Amusement parks and fairs will stay closed.
“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” the Governor said. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our Commonwealth.”
At the request of local elected officials, Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond will remain in Phase One.
Northam’s move to relax his stranglehold on Virginia’s economy is overdue, but subjects must accept whatever crumbs they can get from their rulers — and let’s be clear, Northam, who is governing through indefinitely extended emergency decrees without consultation of the General Assembly, is acting like a ruler. In any case, justification for the rollback is amply backed by the data.
Daily testing levels (specifically, the seven-day moving average) has reached a high of 8,905, according to the Virginia Department of Health dashboard — close to the 10,000 sought by the Governor as a precondition of moving forward. (I still have yet to see a justification for the 10,000 marker other than the fact that it’s a nice round number, but I’m glad to see the Governor is not being dogmatic about achieving it.)
The seven-day moving average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases also has been trending down for several days, falling well below the 1,000 mark. Today’s dashboard indicates 951 average new cases over the past week. Even more encouraging, the percentage of positive tests has been declining steadily since late April, dipping to 11% yesterday. (One would expect the percentage of positive tests to decline as the number of tests increase: testing is reaching deeper into the population rather than being restricted to hospitalized patients with COVID-19 symptoms. So I’m not sure how meaningful these numbers are, but if Northam is happy with them, I’m happy.)
The most meaningful statistics — meaningful in that they are least susceptible to sampling bias — are the hospitalization numbers. And they are showing steady, if undramatic, improvement. The seven-day moving average for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 peaked at 1,529 in early May and has been drifting down ever since, reaching 1,362 yesterday.
While the virus itself has spread now to virtually all corners of the state — only Highland, Bland, and Dickenson Countries have zero confirmed cases — the epidemic remains highly localized. Deaths remain heavily concentrated in long-term care facilities, which account for 57% of all deaths.
The most significant move is the lifting of the 10-person limit to a gathering to 50 people. I’m not sure how that will work out in practice, but it should allow a lot of people to return to their workplaces. Who knows, we might even see some rehiring. Cross your fingers and hope the jobless numbers begin to shrink.There are currently no comments highlighted.