As phase three reopening starts in Virginia on Wednesday, July 1, state data shows progress in containing the coronavirus.
A smaller portion of those who are tested are testing positive, the number of new cases has plateaued, the rate at which cases are doubling has slowed and hospitals have enough ventilators and beds.
Virginia is not seeing a surge in cases like states in the South and West have seen, Gov. Ralph Northam said.
“Today’s percent positivity number is the lowest it’s been in weeks,” Northam said at a news conference Thursday.
Here's a breakdown of the latest data from the state.
"Percent positivity” — the percentage of total tests that return positive for the virus — is a key metric being used to plan Virginia's phased reopening.
The state's seven-day moving average for percent positivity is at 5.9%, close to WHO's recommended positivity rate of 5%, which indicates robust testing capabilities.
“The most important thing is you’re not just seeing increased testing but also decreased number of cases and a decreasing percent positivity,” Dr. Karen Remley, the former Virginia State Health Commissioner, said Thursday.
The state's seven-day moving average of new cases, which is the average number of new cases recorded over the prior seven days, indicates that cases started to plateau in about mid-June.
Daily new cases in Virginia now hover near the 500 mark. So far, this isn't cause for concern. But if those figures begin to rise significantly, that could indicate the beginning of a second wave of infections.
Another metric, the doubling rate, shows that Virginia is slowing the spread of the virus but not as dramatically as D.C. and Maryland are.
The doubling rate measures how many days it would take for COVID-19 cases to double in an area. In this case, a larger number is good; the larger the doubling rate, the slower the virus is spreading.
In Virginia, the doubling rate is at about 82 days. While not as impressive as D.C. and Maryland's doubling rates, Virginia is still on the right track.
Hospitalizations in Virginia have started to level off. Also, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, 80% of all ventilators and more than 3,500 hospital beds are free for use in the state.
Virginia's low positivity rate, increasing doubling rate and surplus of hospital beds and ventilators suggest it's safe to continue to move into phase three reopening.
Even so, it will be important to keep watch on the number of daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. If those figures begin to rise, there could be cause for concern.
“If we see the numbers trending in unfavorable directions, then we’re obviously going to have to make some difficult decisions,” the governor said.
State officials say that to slow the spread of the virus you should continue wearing a mask, washing your hands and practicing social distancing.