Dr. Steve Julian, acting director of the Peninsula Health District, said the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) positive cases are still increasing in James City County and he does not think the locality has peaked yet.
“The IHME model predicts that for the state of Virginia, the peak will be sometime over the weekend,” he said.
While he understands the IHME model is not specific to the Peninsula district, Julian hopes it’s correct but doesn’t know that it is.
“We’ll have to see over the next week or two,” he said. “I would say its not time to let off the gas.”
He commended residents for complying with Gov. Ralph Northam’s orders and social distancing measures but asked them to be patient before lifting the measures.
According to multiple published reports, Michael Hipple, vice chairman for the James City County Board of Supervisors, suggested writing a letter to Northam, asking if the county could have a soft, reopening for businesses.
He made that suggestion during the April 14 board meeting.
Hipple did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails so WYDaily reached out to Jim Icenhour, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, about Hipple’s comments.
“We had a good discussion,” he said of the board meeting. “Michael had raised the issue of what we might ask and see if it was possible.”
“I know that there is a lot of pressure on the state to do that,” he added. “In order to be able to do something like that number one, it would have to approved by the state and number two, be accepted by all our local jurisdictions.”
Icenhour has been tracking the local numbers by dividing the number of cases in the county by the number of statewide cases using data from the Virginia Department of Health.
James City County was previously considered a hotspot and while the locality makes up under one percent of the state population, at the end of March it has 8 percent of the cases with 13.5 percent of the deaths, per Icenhour’s calculations.
As of Friday, the James City County makes up 1.5 percent of the cases and 3.5 percent of the deaths, he said.
“We’re still ahead, but its not getting worse,” he noted. “It’s getting better as we go.”
While some county supervisors and possibly others from Williamsburg and York County plan to send a letter to Northam in a few days, if not early next week, Icenhour won’t be one of them.
While he said he would love to see the economies open at a certain point, Icenhour is worried about the lack of federal support for the state government in terms of testing and tracking protocol.
“I’m a little more concerned about giving us some more breathing room,” he said, adding he would love to have aggressive testing on a national level. “I don’t think we have the necessary infrastructure for testing in place to be able to do that safety.”
Icenhour was unaware VDH was now tracking numbers by locality but said as of a couple of days ago, James City County had 13 deaths, referring to an email sent by Scott Stevens, the county’s administrator, on Thursday.
He added sometimes the localities can get the information about the number of cases 2-3 days before the VDH’s website catches up.
On Friday, Stevens sent a different email, changing the number of deaths to 12, per the VDH’s website.
As of Friday, there are 11,594 cases and 410 deaths statewide. On the Peninsula, James City County has 150 positive cases, Newport News has 107, Hampton has 99, York County has 43, Williamsburg has 14 and Poquoson has 6, according to VDH’s website.
At least 20 people from the Peninsula Health District and one person from the Hampton Heath District have died from the coronavirus.
The Peninsula Health District covers Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County. The Hampton Health District covers Hampton.
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