Coronavirus deaths in VA rise; governor calls for help from medical community

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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) - The Virginia Department of Health is reporting 391 cases of coronavirus in the commonwealth as of noon Wednesday.

There are 13 recorded coronavirus-related deaths in the commonwealth, up from nine Tuesday. One of those deaths reported was of a patient who lived in the Pittsylvania/Danville Health District. Fifty-nine people have been hospitalized, 5,370 people have been tested.

Death of person in Henrico raise VA COVID-19 death toll to 13

Any new confirmed cases from health departments throughout the state the rest of the day won't show up until at least Thursday on the state list, as the official numbers are only updated once a day.

The numbers are expected to continue to rise in the coming days.

Click here to watch Wednesday's news conference.

"This emphasizes how we are just at the beginning of this," Governor Ralph Northam said. "We are not talking about weeks, unfortunately; we are talking about months."

The spike in numbers is because the state is able to do more testing and because there is more community spread, Northam said.

To address the need for more healthcare providers at facilities across the state, Virginia is taking steps to re-work its licensing procedures and allow medical students to help with patients, Northam said.

Healthcare professionals are also encouraged to volunteer their experience and expertise through the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps. Already about 1,500 VAMRC volunteers have offered to help, Northam said.

The state is working to secure more personal protective equipment (PPE) for those health care providers.

This includes a new order directing all hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures to help conserve supplies like bed space and equipment like ventilators and PPE.

Virginia received its first shipment of PPE from the national stockpile this week and has made its second request.

The state is collaborating with the Army Corps of Engineers to identify areas where they could build and create more bed space for patients. Northam will make an announcement once locations have been chosen.

Virginia is also ordering State Parks to be available for day-use only. The Commonwealth will be closing camp grounds, cabins, and bath houses starting Friday morning.

Northam also addressed the recent controversy surrounding Liberty University. He urged President Falwell to follow other universities and not invite students to come back to campus.

"We appreciate our colleges and universities making accommodations for students with special cases, but that is very different from inviting students to leave their homes and come back to campus," Northam said.

The newly reported positive coronavirus cases include the first confirmed case in Roanoke County, plus one in Botetourt, two each in Harrinsonburg and Rockingham, one each in Rockbridge and Amherst, two each in Bedford and Danville, one in Halifax, three in Mecklenberg, and one in Franklin County. One reported in Radford Tuesday has not shown up on the state map.

Governor Ralph Northam held a briefing Wednesday afternoon to update the commonwealth on the coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus

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