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Don’t let guard down

The state of Virginia is in the third phase of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan as of last Wednesday, but state and local health officials continue to urge caution.

Numbers in Virginia were falling for quite some time, but they seem to be on the rise again, including locally. On Friday, the Western Tidewater Health District reported its largest one-day increase in cases since May 15. Most of the new cases were in Suffolk.

Speaking at the Suffolk City Council meeting last week, the first day of the Phase 3 reopening, Western Tidewater Health District Director Dr. Todd Wagner cautioned people to be vigilant.

“The fact that I’m starting to see a little bit of leveling off, a little bit of increase in the percent positivity, combined with the fact that … we just went to Phase 3 reopening, this weekend, we’ve got a large Fourth of July weekend, makes me concerned,” Wagner said at the meeting. That was before the spike in cases on Friday.

Although many things have reopened in Phase 3, and there is no more stay-at-home order in effect, life should not be back to “normal” quite yet. The virus is still circulating in our community, so it might pay to be even more vigilant than we have been the past few months.

On June 10, the day the stay-at-home order expired, Dr. Norman Oliver, the state health commissioner, spoke with the Suffolk News-Herald and shared some things he thinks people should do this summer to stay safe.

First of all, he recommended that people still stay at home if they don’t have to be out.

“We feel that people can go out and participate in some activities outside of the home, but the virus is still there, so clearly staying at home will be safer,” he said. “This is especially true for people in high risk groups, the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions — those of us in those categories should only go out if absolutely necessary for the foreseeable future.”

Dr. Oliver also said wearing a mask is a way to prevent spread of the virus.

“The reason why I should wear a mask is so that I don’t infect you,” he said. “If I’m out and about and spreading respiratory droplets, I can infect others whether or not I’m feeling sick. If the majority of people wear a mask, it can significantly decrease the spread of the virus, so that’s the reason for wearing a mask.”

Oliver also recommended that people wash their hands frequently with soap and water, use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available, and keep their distance from others.

For more information about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus, visit vdh.virginia.gov.