Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that he will allow the city of Virginia Beach to reopen its beaches starting Friday, with some restrictions, as the Memorial Day holiday nears.
Also Monday, Virginia health officials said they have identified one case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in the state, a potentially deadly illness found in children and teens weeks after a COVID-19 infection.
In announcing the reopening of some of the state’s beaches, Northam said he was satisfied with a plan Virginia Beach developed in conjunction with the state to reopen their beaches “while maintaining safety, and social and physical distancing.”
Beachgoers will be allowed to sunbathe, swim, fish and surf under the plan. Banned are group sports, alcohol consumption, speakers, tents and umbrella groupings.
Beach parking will be limited to 50% capacity, and the city will roll out enhanced cleaning for high-touch areas.
“These rules must be followed. If people swarm these beaches, and ignore social distancing rules, or the regulations the city has put into place, I will not hesitate to reinstate Phase One restrictions or close the beaches outright if necessary,” Northam said Monday during a briefing with reporters. “You must be responsible.”
Right now, Virginia’s beaches remain open only for exercise and fishing. States across the country’s East Coast, including New York and New Jersey, have announced plans to reopen their beaches ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.
Northam said the order will apply only to beaches within Virginia Beach, including First Landing State Park. Northam said other localities that also wish to reopen their beaches should begin to develop plans similar to the one adopted by Virginia Beach.
“Virginia’s beaches offer important mental health benefits, rest, relaxation and exercise,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer. “I believe we have a great plan, and I am prepared to stand by this great plan to ensure that when we open, we will be the safe beach that is required during this time.”
Rare illness case
Virginia’s first case of a rare inflammatory illness found in children weeks after contracting COVID-19 comes as other states like New York report dozens of cases.
Symptoms of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome include a rash, swelling, and gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. The inflammation is resulting in failure of multiple organs and shock among children and teens.
State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver could not immediately share details of the case, but said the patient is under the age of 18 and is alive. Oliver said the agency would share more details in coming days.
The CDC said Thursday that there is “limited information” about treatment and risk factors for the illness, but established a connection between the symptoms and a prior COVID-19 infection.
“CDC is requesting healthcare providers report suspected cases to public health authorities to better characterize this newly recognized condition in the pediatric population,” the agency said in a statement.
Va. emergency official leaving
Also Monday, Northam announced that Virginia’s State Coordinator of Emergency Management, Jeff Stern, will step down from his role to take a job at the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Stern leads the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, which coordinates the state’s COVID-19 response.
Stern will remain in his role until June 6. Northam has not named a replacement.
“Between now and then I will find, along with my staff, we will work and make sure we find the best person to replace him,” Northam said.
Stern was appointed to his current role by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2014, when he was governor.
At FEMA, Stern will serve as the Superintendent of the Emergency Management Institute, which trains public- and private-sector leaders on emergency response.
More than 4,000 people have been hospitalized by COVID-19 in Virginia and discharged.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which represents 27 health systems and 110 hospitals, reported Monday that 4,107 people who tested positive for the virus and hospitalized have been discharged. A total of 1,502 people remain hospitalized, according to VHHA.
Of the 1,502 people hospitalized, 361 are in the intensive care unit and 194 are currently on ventilators, the association reported.
Roughly 80% of hospitals’ ventilators remain unused, according to VHHA, with 629 of 2,933 in use.
The hospitals have 4,389 beds available.
752 new cases
The Virginia Department of Health reported Monday that the state has 31,140 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 752 over the 30,388 reported Sunday.
The 31,140 cases include 29,591 confirmed cases and 1,549 probable cases. Also, there are 1,014 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 980 confirmed and 34 probable. That’s an increase of five from the 1,009 reported Sunday.
In April, the VDH started including probable COVID-19 cases and probable deaths in the state’s overall tally. Probable cases are people who are symptomatic with a known exposure to COVID-19, but have not been confirmed with a positive test.
In the Richmond area, there are 3,278 cases: 1,272 in Henrico County; 1,002 in Chesterfield County, 779 in Richmond and 225 in Hanover County.
Also, the region has 179 deaths attributed to the virus: 113 in Henrico, 29 in Chesterfield, 18 in Richmond and 19 in Hanover.
Fairfax County, the state’s most populous locality with more than 1.1 million people, has the most cases with 7,843 and 284 deaths.
There are coronavirus cases in 130 of Virginia’s 133 cities and counties. Only Bath, Bland and Dickenson counties don’t have cases.
VDH said there are 306 outbreaks in the state, 182 in long-term care facilities. These facilities also account for 595 of the state’s 1,014 deaths attributed to the virus.
VDH data broke down statewide cases by age group:
0-9: 680 cases (2.2%)
10-19: 1,368 cases (4.4%)
20-29: 4,535 cases (14.6%)
30-39: 5,322 cases (18.2%)
40-49: 5,768 cases (18.6%)
50-59: 5,241 cases (16.9%)
60-69: 3,622 cases (11.6%)
70-79: 1,939 cases (6.2%)
80+: 2,200 cases (7.1%)
VDH data also broke down statewide deaths by age group:
0-9: 0 deaths
10-19: 0 deaths
20-29: 2 deaths (0.2%)
30-39: 7 deaths (0.7%)
40-49: 22 deaths (2.2%)
50-59: 53 deaths (5.2%)
60-69: 157 deaths (15.5%)
70-79: 240 deaths (23.7%)
80+: 532 deaths (52.5%)
State health officials have said there’s a lag in the reporting of statewide numbers on the VDH website. Figures on the website might not include cases or deaths reported by localities or local health districts.
Richmond.com editor Paul Whelan and staff writer Justin Mattingly contributed to this report.
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