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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam visit with a teacher during an educator mass vaccination at Unity Reed High School in Manassas on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Northam said this is the first step in reopening schools across the commonwealth.

As Virginia nears 10,000 deaths caused by COVID-19, Gov. Ralph Northam has declared Sunday, March 14, a day of prayer and remembrance to honor the Virginians who have lost their lives to the virus.

The date marks the one-year anniversary of the first death reported in Virginia as being related to COVID-19.  That death occurred in the Peninsula District. The first positive case in Virginia was reported a week earlier, on March 7

Northam has ordered that state flags be lowered on all state and local buildings and grounds from sunrise on Sunday and remain at half-staff until sunset.

Through Saturday, the Virginia Department of Health had reported 9,985 deaths statewide related to COVID-19.  Of those, 2,211 have been in Northern Virginia.  Deaths have nearly doubled since Jan. 1, reflecting the post-holiday surge in cases. 

"More than 9,900 of our fellow Virginians have lost their lives to this disease, leaving behind families, friends, colleagues, and neighbors of all races, religions, and backgrounds," Northam said in a news release. "And while we cannot bring them back, we can honor their memories—and prevent more grief and loss—by working together to keep each other safe.”

The Executive Mansion in Richmond will be illuminated with an amber light from Sunday, March 14, until Sunday, March 21, to pay tribute to the Virginians lost to COVID-19. Northam and his wife, Pamela, said they are inviting people across the state to join in commemorating the lives lost by lighting their homes and businesses amber.

The Northam Administration also said it is creating a portal where Virginians can share the names and stories of their loved ones. Additional information will be provided in the coming weeks.

The number of new daily cases continues to fall both statewide and in Northern Virginia.  As of Saturday's report, Virginia's seven-day average of new daily cases is down to 1,289.3, the lowest level since Nov. 5. Northern Virginia's seven-day average is down to 318.4, its lowest since Nov. 6.  Hospitalizations for treatment of the virus are likewise at their lowest levels since early November. 

Over 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, reaching nearly 20% of the population with at least one dose. 

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