Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard to Include More Detailed Race and Ethnicity Data Starting Today 

June 15, 2020

(Richmond, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will change how race and ethnicity data are presented, beginning today. This update will provide a more detailed look at the effects of COVID-19 on minority populations across Virginia. VDH will combine race and ethnicity information into one category and will expand the number of racial identities from three to seven.

Previously, race data was reported as one of three categories: White, Black or African American, and Other.  Ethnicity data identified individuals as either Hispanic or Latino or Not Hispanic or Latino.

The new reporting method will expand racial and ethnic categories to the following:

  • Asian or Pacific Islander – Non-Hispanics who identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • Black – Non-Hispanics who identify as Black or African American
  • Latino – Individuals of any race who identify as Hispanic or Latino
  • Native American – Non-Hispanics who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native
  • White – Non-Hispanics who identify as White
  • Other Race – Non-Hispanics who select Other Race
  • Two or More Races – Non-Hispanics who identify as more than one of the above race categories

“We have been working diligently for the last several weeks to provide more detailed race and ethnicity data. This updated format allows us to get a clearer picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting minority communities in Virginia,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A.

“We see, for instance, that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Virginia’s Latinx population. Although Latinx people make up 10 percent of the state’s population, they account for 45 percent of the COVID-19 cases, 35 percent of the hospitalizations and 11 percent of the deaths. Factors such as access to health care, poverty, geography, occupation and racism drive these disparities. Our health districts across the state are working hard to expand testing and outreach in these hard-hit communities,” Dr. Oliver said. “One of our biggest challenges is the large amount of missing data on race and ethnicity in the disease reports we receive. We continue to encourage individuals, health providers and laboratories to report race and ethnicity data.”

The updated reporting of accurate race and ethnicity data is considered to be an essential step toward better measuring COVID-19 infection rates as well as the overall impact of the pandemic.  In addition, this updated method of presenting data will allow researchers with the Office of Health Equity to identify health inequities while providing information to develop tracking and reporting guidelines for future health crises.

“The leadership of the Health Equity Working Group (HEWG) group is committed to building visible equity by leveraging sincere stakeholder engagement and the diverse perspectives represented within this historic body, which includes the many dimensions of diversity we have represented in the Commonwealth,” said Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Janice Underwood, Ph.D.

“As a partner in the pursuit of justice for all and advancing equity across several determinants of health, the HEWG advocated for expanding racial data collected for COVID-19 to include those of Asian and Indigenous Virginia Indian or Native American heritage,” said Dr. Underwood. “We are pleased that these updated reporting changes will ensure a more complete picture of the impact this pandemic is having on our residents.”

The new categories are aligned with race and ethnicity standards used by various state and federal agencies.  This data collection method allows for the integration of various data sources and is based on reporting from the Office of Management and Budget Standards.

To help preserve individual privacy of groups with relatively small population numbers, data for several health district will be combined as follows:

  • Asian or Pacific Islanders
    • Cumberland Plateau Health District and Lenowisco Health District
    • Eastern Shore Health District and Three Rivers Health District
  • Native American
    • Cumberland Plateau Health District, Lenowisco Health District and Mount Rogers Health District
    • Pittsylvania/Danville Health District and Southside Health District
    • Eastern Shore Health District and Three Rivers Health District
    • Alleghany Health District and Roanoke City Health District

In addition to changes to the Demographics dashboard, the options for data downloading for public use will include a single dataset with the seven categories. This combined dataset will replace the previous Race and Ethnicity datasets. The more granular presentation of race data is the result of collaboration with various groups, including the Office of Health Equity and Health Equity Working Group.

The Virginia Department of Health’s June 12 Data to Show a Sharp Increase in PCR Tests – New Numbers will Reflect Roughly 43,000 PCR Tests

(Richmond, Va.) — Today, COVID-19 diagnostic testing data reported by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will reflect a sharp increase in PCR SARS-CoV-2 tests completed in Virginia.  Today’s testing report includes 43,000 PCR tests.  Two laboratories began electronic reporting to VDH this week, allowing a backlog of negative tests to be included in today’s testing report.  Positive test results from these labs were hand entered into the system when they were received to support follow-up by public health staff.  The addition of these negative tests will result in a decrease in the percent of positive PCR tests.   One lab had roughly 18,000 results and the other had around 13,500 results.  The remainder of the figure reflects regular daily reporting.  VDH reports labs by lab report date on our website. These results will be presented based on the actual date the laboratory reported the test result.

All labs in the Commonwealth are considered disease information reporters.  Therefore the names of the labs are considered confidential by the Code of Virginia sections 32.1 -36 and 32.1-38 so VDH cannot release this information.

Statement Regarding Upcoming Increase in COVID-19 Testing Data for June 9 

June 8, 2020

(Richmond, Va.) — Starting on June 9, the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) COVID-19 data dashboard will reflect 13,000 additional tests that were backlogged. Over the next couple of days, this new information will be slowly added to the current data, which will result in an influx of results.

A Richmond area laboratory had previously been providing test results via fax, which had to be entered manually by VDH staff, contributing to the backlog. VDH staff had prioritized positive test results, which means the remaining backlog largely includes negative tests. The lab is now submitting test results electronically. 

This change alleviates by half the reporting backlog of test results. VDH continues to work to eliminate that backlog. 

Virginia Department of Health Shares Information on Publicly Available COVID-19 Tests

June 4, 2020

(Richmond, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) wants to ensure all Virginians, including those participating in ongoing protests, know how to access publicly-available COVID-19 tests.

The nature of large protests means the virus may spread more easily there, especially if protesters are not wearing masks. VDH has communicated with Local Health Districts where protests have occurred. We are encouraging those districts to share information with protesters about community testing events and pharmacy locations where COVID-19 tests are available.

Individuals who have attended protests may be at higher risk of infection of COVID-19. VDH suggests protesters wear masks, wash hands frequently, stay six feet apart from others in crowds, and, if symptoms appear, stay home and call their health care provider.

All Virginians may get tested if they experience symptoms of COVID-19 or if they believe they have been exposed to others with infections.

“We support the right to protest, and we also want people to be safe. People can have COVID-19 and not show symptoms or have only mild symptoms and unknowingly spread the virus to others. For some people, particularly those with underlying health conditions, the virus can be life-threatening. We urge people who have symptoms such as fever and cough to stay home and to get tested,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A.

VDH encourages individuals to talk with their health care provider about questions. The Department will continue to monitor and respond to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak while supporting Virginians’ right to engage in civic action.

Access VDH’s online symptom checker, CovidCheck at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck/.

Find publicly-available tests at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/covid-19-testing-sites/.

Virginia Department of Health Revises Method of Reporting Test Data – Updated Information Available Beginning May 30 

May 29, 2020

(Richmond, Va.) — To provide more accurate information about COVID-19 testing at the community level, Saturday the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will begin reporting COVID-19 data on testing encounters by health district using more accurate ZIP Code information. The new data will impact 37,362 test results that were previously not assigned a health district designation because incomplete patient address information was reported to VDH.

Since May 1, VDH has reported testing encounters, which counts an individual person once per day as a measure of testing frequency and testing capacity. Because VDH often receives laboratory reports with incomplete information, those results were included in the statewide total, but were listed as missing geographic data and, as a result, did not appear in local health district counts.

Beginning May 30, VDH will report test encounter data using a tiered approach. If a test record is missing a patient address ZIP Code, the ordering provider’s ZIP Code will be used. If neither ZIP Code for the patient or ordering provider is available, the testing laboratory’s ZIP Code will be used.

By using the new data reporting method, testing encounter numbers will increase the health district figures as follows:

  • Alexandria by 699
  • Alleghany by 1,309
  • Arlington by 187
  • Central Shenandoah by 334
  • Central Virginia by 119
  • Chesapeake by 1,213
  • Chesterfield by 393
  • Chickahominy by 194
  • Crater by 892
  • Cumberland Plateauby 208
  • Eastern Shore by 312
  • Fairfax by 3,072
  • Hampton by 829
  • Henrico by 622
  • Lenowisco by 234
  • Lord Fairfax by 6,414
  • Loudoun by 1,234
  • Mount Rogers by 197
  • New River by 618
  • Norfolk by 2,536
  • Peninsula by 1,435
  • Piedmont by 106
  • Pittsylvania-Danville by 33
  • Portsmouth by 165
  • Prince William by 933
  • Rappahannock by 296
  • Rappahannock Rapidan by 454
  • Richmond by 3,541
  • Roanoke by 6,453
  • Southside by 212
  • Thomas Jefferson by 573
  • Three Rivers by 444
  • Virginia Beach by 187
  • West Piedmont by 330
  • Western Tidewater by 584

This improvement in how VDH presents data on testing encounters does not impact case data.

First Virginia Case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children Associated with COVID-19 Reported

May 19, 2020

(Richmond, Va.) —The Fairfax Health District has confirmed a case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. This is the first case of MIS-C reported in Virginia. The child was hospitalized on May 5 and has since been discharged and is recovering at home. To protect privacy, no other patient information will be disclosed.

MIS-C, previously called Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, is a new health condition associated with COVID-19. The first reports of this syndrome came from the United Kingdom in late April. U.S. cases were first reported in New York City in early May.

MIS-C may cause problems with a child’s heart and other organs. Most children with MIS-C have fever lasting several days and may show symptoms of irritability or decreased activity, abdominal pain without another explanation, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, conjunctivitis, lack of appetite, red or cracked lips, red or bumpy tongue, or swollen hands and feet.

Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A., provided information and guidance on the syndrome to health care providers in Virginia in a May 15 Clinician Letter.

“I urge all health care providers in Virginia to immediately report any patient who meets these criteria to the local health department by the most rapid means,” said Dr. Oliver. “All Virginians should take steps to avoid exposure to COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing cloth face coverings if appropriate.” Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under 2 years old.

Parents should watch for persistent fever in their children and contact their pediatrician if a child appears especially ill.

The CDC issued a Health Advisory on May 14 about the syndrome, which may include symptoms of persistent fever, hypotension, multisystem organ involvement and elevated markers of inflammation. It is not currently known how common it may be for children to experience these symptoms.

Virginia Department of Health Releases Disaggregated Testing Data; No Differences in Trends

May 14, 2020

(RICHMOND, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health today released testing data broken out by PCR (diagnostic) and antibody (serology) tests. Antibody tests make up less than nine percent of overall tests. When these tests are removed from total results, there is minimal change in the percent positive of tests and no difference in overall trends. Click link below for additional information.

Virginia Department of Health Releases Disaggregated Testing Data; No Differences in Trends

Virginia Department of Health – Beach Monitoring Status Updates during COVID-19 Pandemic

May 1, 2020

(Richmond, Va.)— The Virginia Coastal Beach Monitoring and Notification Program normally conducts weekly beach water samples mid-May through September, at 45 sites. When beach samples indicate an unsafe level of bacteria, the health department issues beach advisories to let the public know when there is a higher risk of waterborne illness.

Local Health Districts who conduct this monitoring have evaluated their resources and determined whether monitoring could be conducted safely by their staff during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The following are all beaches which are normally sampled in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and King George County as part of the beach monitoring program, and will be sampled weekly beginning mid-May through September:

Virginia Beach Beaches:
Chicks Beach
Chesapeake
Lesner Bridge
Sea Gate
First Landing (VA Department of Parks and Recreation)
Fort Story
Oceanfront (15th Street to 78th Street)
Dam Neck
Camp Pendleton
Croatan
Sandbridge & Little Island Beach
Back Bay

Norfolk:
13th View
10th View
Captains Quarters
Sarah Constance
Oceanview
North Community Beach
Capeview
5th Bay
21st Bay
East Community Beach

King George County:
Fairview

The following are beaches that will be sampled weekly beginning mid-June through September (or consistent with the date of the Governor’s Executive Order #51):

Eastern Shore (Northampton and Accomack Counties):
Guard Shore (VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries)
Assateague (National Park Service)
Cape Charles Town
Kiptopeke (VA Department of Parks and Recreation)

Mathews County:
Festival

Gloucester County:
Gloucester

Newport News:
Yorktown (National Park Service)
Hilton
Huntington
King-Lincoln
Anderson

Hampton:
Fort Monroe
Buckroe
Salt Ponds

The VDH Beach Map is updated weekly with results of beach monitoring at www.SwimHealthyVa.com.

The public may follow @VDHBeach on Twitter for notifications when beach advisories are issued (based on unsafe levels of bacteria in sample results) and lifted (when bacteria are below safe sample result levels).

Tips for Healthy and Safe Swimming in Natural Waters :

  • Continue to follow the social distancing recommendations of CDC and avoid groups of 10 or more people.
  • Observe and follow posted beach sign recommendations.
  • Lifeguards may not be on duty during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Look out for rip currents and avoid swimming near them.
  • Never swim alone. Always swim with a buddy.
  • Use life jackets and wear them appropriately. Avoid the use of water-wings or other flotation devices which are not listed or sold as a “life jacket,” which should securely fasten around the swimmer.
  • Provide continuous and attentive supervision near swimmers. Cell phones down, eyes up!
  • Children should be out of the water every hour for bathroom breaks.
  • Swim diapers do not prevent fecal matter from getting into the water and should be changed in a proper bathroom facility and disposed of in trash receptacles. Never change diapers on the beach! Wash hands thoroughly with soapy water afterward.
  • Clean up after pets by properly disposing of pet waste in trash receptacles.
  • Avoid swimming in discolored water, water with scum, water that smells bad, or if there are dead or dying animals near the water. When in doubt, stay out!
  • Avoid getting water in eyes, nose, and mouth. Teach children not to swallow water, which may contain germs that could make them sick. Nose and earplugs may help prevent children from getting water in their noses and ears.
  • Use sunscreen, and remember to apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.

For more information on staying healthy and safe in and around the water this summer, visit www.SwimHealthyVA.com

Virginia Department of Health Launches New “COVID-19 & You” Web Page Tool

April 27, 2020 – The Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 web page has added a new consumer education and information topics toolbar that offers website visitors a more interactive and personalized experience.

“This COVID-19 & You tool serves to answer questions for the public regarding health concerns and issues by providing interactive experiences,” said Suresh Soundararajan, VDH chief information officer. “The intent is to make the user experience better and more targeted for people looking for information regarding COVID-19.”

The platform uses software from declared data company Jebbit.

Users are able to click through a list of topics and subtopics that are based on information consumers most frequently search for on the VDH COVID-19 website. Links go to pages that have more graphics and photos, shorter blocks of text, and larger text. Some links direct users to other websites, primarily the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. VDH subject matter experts review the information for accuracy and readability.

“Covid-19 & You allows the public an innovative way of accessing information by customizing the experience through channels,” Mr. Soundararajan said. “It addresses frequently asked questions regarding health concerns and issues. It offers an interactive way to disseminate information and create transparency and awareness for the public.”

VDH’s website team began working on the project on April 8.

“We will add additional experiences and edit the current experiences based on the analytics on these pages. Ideally, we could create user experiences for any health information VDH wants our citizens to know about,” Mr. Soundararajan said.

For the latest information on the COVID-19 situation in Virginia, go to the VDH coronavirus webpage at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/.

COVID-19 Information Sharing Between Long-term Care Facilities (LTCF) and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF)

On Tuesday, April 21, Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia State Health Commissioner,  announced that Long-term Care Facilities (LTCFs) and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) in neighboring areas can share information on positive COVID-19 cases.  This information includes case identification and contact investigation efforts.

Under Section 32.1-41 of the Code of Virginia, the State Health Commissioner has the authority to release Public Health Information (PHI) if it is pertinent to an investigation.  Although these health care providers are permitted to share this information, these details remain confidential, per the Code of Virginia, and will not be released to the public.

Many essential health care employees work at multiple facilities, serving Virginia’s most vulnerable during this pandemic.  Out of concern for their safety and the safety of patients, the State Health Commissioner is releasing this information to aid VDH’s state and local efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.