Last week, and for several weeks now, I spoke about the challenges and changes to come throughout the Commonwealth as we see restrictions begin to ease. Still today, my statements stand true and remain important.
With an ease in restrictions, we must not interpret that as a decrease in the risk of COVID-19 throughout our community. The risk of this virus has not decreased, and if anything, the risk will increase if we do not thoroughly follow the public health guidance. I understand the difficulty that everyone has had to face, and I know that COVID-19 has impacted each and every one of our lives. It can be difficult to navigate the often-changing guidelines for individuals, families, businesses, faith-based organizations, and our community as a whole. With lots of uncertainty, I want to be able to provide you with very clear public health guidance.
First and foremost, we are safest at home. If we have to leave the house, it’s important to continue proper social distancing where you physically distance yourself at least six feet from others, wear a cloth face covering, wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer, clean frequently touched surfaces, and be mindful of what you are doing and when you are doing it. We are setting ourselves up for a strong defense against COVID-19 if we follow this public health guidance. We don’t want to be spreaders of COVID-19. We want to be preventers of it.
Easing restrictions also now puts a new twist on how we have to protect ourselves. These past few months we have focused on how to keep ourselves safe. As we begin to re-open, we now need to take what we have learned on an individual level for ourselves and apply it at a community level. This is especially important if you are responsible for a public community space such as a business or faith community. There is guidance for general business sectors and the following specific sectors are available: farmers markets, fitness and exercise facilities, campgrounds and summer camps, restaurants and beverage services, brick and mortar retail, personal care and grooming services, and religious services. Businesses are ONLY permitted to open IF they are able to meet the requirements laid out in the guidance. This document is available on https://www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia/
As we ease restrictions, the health department is diligently working cases with case investigation and contact tracing and will continue to do so. For every positive case, our epidemiological team does a case investigation and identifies all close contacts while the person was contagious. As an example, one of our local outbreaks has resulted in over 300 contacts that need to be contacted, advised, and monitored for quarantine. When individuals have been following the public health guidance and have been social distancing and staying at home, their close contacts are fewer.
Remember, this pandemic is not going to be over anywhere until it is over everywhere.
Please visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus or call our health department’s call center if you have any questions or concerns: 1-855-949-8378, open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. or para español, 1-540-312-0043, de lunes a viernes de 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.