RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Thursday amid the rise of coronavirus cases in Virginia to 17, with state health officials reporting two in central Virginia.

Northam urged Virginians to avoid large gatherings and laid out the commonwealth’s plans to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, just a day after holding a similar press conference on Wednesday.

“Since we met yesterday, it has become clear to everyone that states all over the country need to take a greater leadership role in response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Northam began Thursday. “The situation is fluid and changing rapidly. Virginians should know that we have long-standing plans in place to deal with pandemics. We have trained for them and we are ready for this.”

The governor announced that he has prohibited state employees from out-of-state travel for at least 30 days, that Virginia hopes to develop its own test kits and could possibly make drive-thru testing available.

“Our top priority is to make sure Virginians stay safe and healthy, and that our response to this situation leaves no one behind,” Northam continued. “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.”

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Northam also said that all conferences and large events specially scheduled by the state will be canceled for at least 30 days, and that he has directed state agencies to limit the number of in-person meetings and work-related gathering that are deemed “non-essential.”

The rise in confirmed cases comes as several local events have been canceled, including a growing list of college tournaments that have been shut down. The governor called on localities and nonprofits to limit public gatherings but said it’s up to those localities to make a decision to cancel an event.

Longwood University in Farmville announced that one student tested positive for coronavirus late Wednesday night, which prompted the university to cancel in-person classes until at least March 18.

The cases, which include two Virginians who tested positive in Texas, have been confirmed or test results have come back presumptive positive, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

To keep germs from spreading, the Virginia Department of Health recommends you do the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.

WATCH: Northam, state officials hold press conference on Virginia’s response to pandemic