COVID-19 cases rise to 460, Virginia lags other states on testing, grocers add plexiglass to shield cashiers, and more headlines

Virginia Mercury

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• Health officials say 460 people have now tested positive for COVID-19, 65 are hospitalized and 13 have died. Doctors say the true number of infected people could easily be eight to 10 times higher. “We’re probably testing the tip of the iceberg.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Virginia appears to have fallen behind other states in testing capacity, a huge issue according to researchers: “The delay in the ability to diagnose this because of the test limitations has put public health departments behind the 8-ball on doing what is really important.”—The Virginian-Pilot

• “46,885 Virginians filed unemployment claims for the week ending March 21. That’s about 18 times higher than the previous four-week rolling average of 2,645 claims.”—Associated Press

• “President Donald Trump plans to visit Norfolk on Saturday to see off the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship that will head to New York to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.”—The Virginian-Pilot

• Just how broad are Gov. Ralph Northam’s emergency powers? He can shift money in the budget at will, and his executive orders have the force and effect of law, with violations punishable by fines and up to a year in jail.—The Virginian-Pilot

• Researchers at UVA are working on a potential vaccine, and a team at VCU is conducting clinical trials on a potential treatment.—The Virginian-PilotVPM

• VCU is converting a dormitory into a temporary hospital to prepare for an anticipated surge in patients.—VPM

• “Middle River Regional Jail in Verona reported Thursday that it tested its first inmate for a possible case of the new coronavirus.”—Daily News-Record

• A person who spent “extensive time” at a popular Irish pub in Alexandria tested positive for COVID-19, prompting health officials to warn patrons who were there at the same time to self-quarantine.—Associated Press

• Henrico County is the first Virginia locality to revise its proposed budget for next year to reflect the likelihood of a prolonged economic downturn. Officials scrapped employee raises, implemented a hiring freeze and paused new construction projects.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Grocery stores are installing plexiglass barriers at checkout stations to protect cashiers from exposure to the virus.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Most outdoor construction projects are continuing as usual. “We are not hearing of any significant shutdowns,” said Gordon Dixon, CEO of the state’s largest construction trade organization.—The Roanoke Times

• “The State Corporation Commission on Thursday put the brakes on a major portion of Dominion Energy Inc.’s proposed $7 billion, 10-year plan for electrical grid upgrades, saying it was ‘due to the projected heavy costs to customers without adequate benefits.’”—Virginia Business

• Despite its apparent scarcity on store shelves, the country isn’t likely to run out of toilet paper because “unlike some of the critical medical equipment and protective attire hamstrung by overseas supply chains, the paper industry has remained local and with ready access to its raw material, wood pulp and recycled paper.”—The Washington Post

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