COVID-19 cases rise to 77, jails releasing some nonviolent offenders, a pause in transit fares, and more headlines

Virginia Mercury

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Virginia rose to 77, up from 11 this time last week. Among the new cases is a Richmond couple in their later 30s. “I hear the symptoms feel differently for everybody. But for us, it was strong fatigue, exhaustion, and shortness of breath. The shortness of breath was very new for us. It was feeling very easily winded, like you’ve just run a mile even if you’re only walking the dog.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Sentara Healthcare suspended its drive-thru coronavirus testing in Hampton Roads because they ran out of tests. New testing sites opened in Richmond and Northern Virginia, but are by appointment only.—The Virginian-PilotVPM

• Even in a best-case scenario posed by researchers at Harvard in which 20 percent of the population is infected, Virginia hospitals could be overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.—The Virginian-Pilot

• Health care systems are asking their employees to take care of each other’s kids if they’re on opposite shifts or tap “trustworthy teens.”—The Virginian-Pilot

• Parents are adjusting to statewide school closures and at-home learning requirements. “They will do their assignments, but I want them to get their wiggles out,” said one mom.—The Roanoke Times

• Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, says he either had COVID-19 or the flu during the final weeks of the state’s legislative session, but can’t say for sure because he couldn’t get tested.—VPM

• Advocates are pushing more jails and prisons around the state to release nonviolent inmates, especially people being held because they couldn’t afford bond. In some localities, jailers are readily complying, saying their overcrowded facilities cannot handle an outbreak. “Right now we’re so crowded that we don’t have any capacity to move people around to segregate some offenders,” said Middle River Regional Jail Superintendent Jeff Newton.—Richmond Times-DispatchNews Leader

• Transit agencies around the state have stopped collecting fares to minimize passenger interaction with drivers.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Arts and theater events have gone dark around the state.—The Virginian-Pilot

• Hospitals have begun postponing non-emergency surgeries and appointments.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• “The state of Virginia has been alerting residents to the fact that bears are beginning to wake up from their winter slumber and will soon be in search of food. That means they could likely be in people’s backyards.”—Associated Press

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