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Virginia declares state of emergency over coronavirus

Virginia has declared a state of emergency over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced the state of emergency on Thursday as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 17 in Virginia.

“Our top priority is to make sure Virginians stay safe and healthy, and that our response to this situation leaves no one behind,” the governor said in a statement.

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“From our health department, to our schools, to our hospitals, to our transit systems, Virginia’s agencies and institutions have been thoroughly planning for every scenario. This emergency declaration will ensure we can continue to prepare for and appropriately respond to Virginians’ needs during this time,” he said.

The state is canceling conferences and out-of-state travel by public employees. Northam said Virginia is creating tests for the virus and told public schools to make their own decisions on whether to close. 

Loudoun County Public Schools was the first school district to announce that classes would be canceled through next week, the district's superintendent Eric Williams said.

"While Loudoun County has not experienced the extent of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 as some other areas within our nation or globally and has not had cases that meet the definition of community transmission, we are making this decision out of an abundance of caution," Williams said, according to a recent statement.

The county confirmed one case of the coronavirus, although officials from the district said there is not a known connection to the school system.

Northam's announcement comes one day after Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced a state of emergency for the city, allowing the mayor to implement quarantines and cancellation of events and gatherings. 

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The Smithsonian Institution announced public events and tours in the city are canceled through May 3, but its museums and the National Zoo are currently remaining open, according to a statement.

Members of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board were informed Thursday that rail ridership fell by 100,000 trips Wednesday, as companies began encouraging remote work from places of business, The Washington Post reported.

Metro officials said Thursday they will maintain full subway and bus service for as long as possible but are preparing for a decrease in service if too many employees call in sick or work away from offices, according to the report.

Data from Johns Hopkins University reported 10 confirmed cases in Washington as well as 12 confirmed cases in Maryland. No deaths have been recorded in the affected area.