New cases of COVID-19 in the West Piedmont Health District were significantly lower this morning. There were 70 reported, about 30 below the daily average number of cases during the record-setting past 10. The Virginia Department of Health also reported 3 new hospitalizations, but no deaths. Franklin County had 32 of those cases, and Henry County recorded 24 and 2 hospitalizations. Martinsville had 11 cases, and Patrick County had 3, and the new hospitalization. That’s now 8,189 cases, with 147 deaths and 511 hospitalizations in the district since the pandemic began….For the fourth time since the beginning of the year, residents and employees of Mulberry Creek Nursing & Rehab have tested for COVID-19….Because of what’s been happening in the nation, Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of peace is needed strongly now, local organizers say – but the pandemic severely hampers efforts to spread it….Gov. Ralph Northam said at a news conference in Richmond that the state would follow new federal guidance from President Donald Trump’s administration that urged states to immediately start vaccinating people who had previously been lower down the priority list. Newly included in what’s called Phase 1b of the state’s distribution plan are people age 65 and older and younger people with certain health problems….The Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education released new guidance on how to safely reopen school buildings and have students return to the classroom, replacing the phase guidance issued in July….President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, and advance his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. On a parallel track, it delivers another round of aid to stabilize the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic….The Virginia Department of Health reports this morning there have been 422,634 cases and 5,656 deaths statewide — up by 30 since Thursday. Some 19,741 people have been hospitalized. Henry County has had 3,235 cases, with 239 hospitalizations and 63 deaths. Martinsville has had 1,185 cases, with 107 hospitalizations and 28 deaths. Patrick County has had 915 cases including 75 hospitalizations and 28 deaths. Franklin County has had 2,854 cases, 90 hospitalizations and 28 deaths. Danville has reported 3,013 cases (63 deaths), and Pittsylvania County has had 3,428 (41 deaths). Johns Hopkins University’s real-time map showed 93,235,680 cases worldwide and 1,996,948 deaths. In the U.S. there have been 23,314,898 cases and 388,709 deaths because of COVID-19.

(165) updates to this series since Updated

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