RICHMOND —A seventh person has died from the coronavirus in Virginia.
A Virginia Beach man in his 70s died Monday from acute respiratory failure after testing positive for COVID-19, one of 18 cases in the state's largest city. The man had underlying health conditions, according to a news release from the state health department.
The man is the first COVID-19-related death reported by the Virginia Beach Health Department, which is conducting a "contact investigation" and is trying to identify the source of transmission.
“It is a sad day in our city after learning a Virginia Beach resident has died of the virus. Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” said Virginia Beach Health Director Dr. Demetria Lindsay. “Elderly individuals and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, including death. These at-risk individuals are strongly advised to take steps to minimize contact with others who are ill, practice social distancing, and stay at home as much as possible.”
Lindsay said that several recent cases in Virginia Beach "may represent the first indications of potential community transmission, the extent of which, would be determined by the outcome of the investigation."
“We must take action now," Lindsay said. "The choices of each of us affects our community. Public health practices by everyone are critical to slow and blunt the spread of COVID-19."
Virginia will order closed all businesses that center around recreation and entertainment, like movie theaters and bowling alleys, while allowing other businesses to remain open under some restrictions.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that all businesses deemed non-essential by the state would be allowed to remain open as long as they follow sanitation guidelines and keep the number of patrons in their business under 10.
Essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, manufacturing plants and distribution centers, as well as transportation hubs like airports, bus depots, and others.
The order is less strict than that announced Monday by officials in Maryland, where all non-essential businesses were ordered closed. Nevertheless, it represents the most stringent guidance from Virginia officials in the state’s fight to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Northam described the state’s approach as “very aggressive” and said he would continue to look at the data and reevaluate the state’s restrictions. Monday’s order will remain in place for at least 30 days.
At the same time, Northam said "social distancing is the only path forward," and acknowledged the impact of restrictions on Virginia businesses.
"We have an economic crisis, but the sooner that we can get this health crisis under control, the sooner our economy will recover,” Northam said.
Restaurants, while considered essential, will be allowed to stay open only for carry-out and delivery, per the order. Included in that category are breweries and bars.
Northam also addressed gatherings at state and local parks, which swelled during a spell of warmer weather last week.
Northam said parks will remain open, but he urged the public to maintain social distancing guidelines, which call for gatherings of fewer than 10 people in a concentrated area. He said local law enforcement officials were encouraged to issue reminders wherever gatherings grew past the limit.
“We're not out there to penalize people. We certainly are not out there to put people in jails,” Northam said. “But, we are working with our localities, and for example, if a person from the sheriff's department sees a congregation on the beach of 10 or more, they will be reminded that is not accepted.”
House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement the administration should carry on with "their efforts to carefully balance the need to protect Virginians' health as well as their livelihoods."
The Virginia Department of Health reported on its website Monday that 254 people in Virginia have tested positive for COVID-19.
That's an increase of 35 cases, or 16 percent, from the 219 reported at noon on Sunday, and an increase of 102, or 67 percent, from the 152 reported on Saturday. There have been six deaths.
A week ago, on Monday, March 16, state health officials reported there were 51 cases in Virginia.
There are coronavirus cases in 40 Virginia cities and counties, and 3,697 people have been tested in the state, according to the VDH numbers.
On Thursday, state health officials said there’s a lag in the reporting of statewide numbers, and figures on the VDH website might not be the same as numbers reported by individual localities or local health districts. The state has a 5 p.m. cutoff for tabulating daily numbers, so the numbers reported on the website each day are 19 hours old.
This is the breakdown of cases across the state according to the VDH website:
43 - Fairfax County
34 - Arlington County
34 - James City County
18 - Prince William County
17 - Virginia Beach
15 - Loudoun County
11 - Henrico County
9 - Chesterfield County
8 - Richmond
6 - Alexandria
6 - Stafford County
5 - Williamsburg
5 - York County
4 - Charlottesville
4 - Norfolk
2 - Albemarle County
2 - Culpeper County
2 - Goochland County
2 - Gloucester County
2 - Hanover County
2 - Lee County
2 - Louisa County
2 - Newport News
2 - Rockingham County
2 - Spotsylvania County
1 - Accomack County
1 - Amherst County
1 - Bedford County
1 - Botetourt
1 - Charles City County
1 - Danville
1 - Fluvanna County
1 - Franklin County
1 - Harrisonburg
1 - Isle of Wight County
1 - Mecklenburg County
1 - Portsmouth
1 - Prince Edward County
1 - Rockbridge County
1 - Suffolk