Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ...

RICHMOND — Southwest Virginia continues to lead the state in the positivity rate of COVID-19 testing.

Gov. Ralph Northam said during a pandemic briefing Tuesday the rate in the region is 8.1, which is the percentage of positive cases out of the total tested.

The state rate is less than 7 percent.

“Southwest Virginia is also seeming more new cases per day on average,” he said, with 229, which is higher than any region, including Northern Virginia.

Northam said the concern is the region has fewer hospitals and ICU units available.

“This continues to be concerning,” he said, adding that the region’s positivity rate has been decreasing recently, “but it’s the highest in the state right now.”

Northam said local health departments and local officials have been watching the statistics in their communities, but it is a “behavior problem,” with residents not following the protocol of wearing facial coverings in indoor settings, avoiding large gatherings and maintaining physical distancing.

“Ultimately, it’s our behavior that will get this pandemic behind us,’ he said.

Much of the spread in this area, which started right after the Independence Day holiday weekend, has been attributed to residents traveling to the other places and returning.

Prior to July 4, for example, Tazewell County had seen fewer than 20 positive cases during the entire pandemic, with no hospitalizations and no deaths.

But that started changing quickly in mid-July. On Tuesday, those numbers stood at 231 positive cases, 15 hospitalizations and two deaths.

Similar scenarios unfolded in Buchanan (111 cases, six hospitalizations), Giles (71 cases, two hospitalizations and no deaths) and Bland (64 cases, two hospitalizations and two deaths) counties, all as of Tuesday.

Northam also said some businesses are reported to not be following guidelines about facial coverings and even large chain stores that require facial coverings to enter store are not enforcing the requirement if a customer removes the mask after entering.

“We have seen some businesses’ lack of compliance and we are following that closely,” he said, adding that colleges and universities are doing a good job in handling the pandemic.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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