Albemarle County Police Dept. employee tests positive for COVID-19

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WHSV) — The Albemarle County Police Department says one of their employees has tested positive for COVID-19.

Photo: WVIR

Police Chief Ron Lantz issued a public statement on Friday, saying, "I wanted to share this with the community because I have a request - we need every one of you to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and follow all other guidance from the CDC right now."

On Thursday, the Thomas Jefferson Health District of the Virginia Department of Health announced that they had confirmed two additional cases in Charlottesville, bringing the total there to three, and one new case in Albemarle County.

Chief Lantz said people in the county will see some changes in emergency response in the weeks ahead.

"First responders may wear additional personal protective equipment, or may ask you to meet them outside. Do not be alarmed," Lantz said. "They are doing their best to keep you and themselves safe and healthy. Lastly, answer all questions from first responders to the best of your ability. Accurate information is what will keep everyone safe in this difficult time."

The Department of Health is investigating the employee's case, like all newly confirmed cases, to determine who has been in close contact with the patients. Contacts will be asked to stay home away from others for 14 days.

“As we continue to see new cases of COVID-19 in our community and throughout the Commonwealth, it is critical that people follow the public health guidelines on social distancing and good hygiene,” said Dr. Bonds, TJHD Health Director. “Social distancing is one of the most effective strategies in lessening the impact of this pandemic.” People should avoid social gatherings of more than 10 individuals. If you are 65 years or older, or if you have a serious chronic medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, immune compromise), you should seriously consider staying at home. “We all have a responsibility and duty to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our community from this novel coronavirus.”

Moving forward, the Thomas Jefferson Health District says they will not be sending out individual announcements for new cases in the district, because they anticipate there will be more. They suggest people visit the VDH website for the latest case totals.

The situation across Virginia

b>Total cases in Virginia

In a daily press briefing provided by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dr. Norm Oliver, the state health commissioner, announced the updated case total, saying that there have been more than 13,000 confirmed cases across the U.S. and 196 deaths nationally.

On a state level, Virginia has seen 114 confirmed cases, with at least 35 tests pending.

That's an increase of 20 from the 94 cases confirmed on Thursday, though the Virginia Department of Health numbers announced each day are based on the total number that had been confirmed to their offices by 5 p.m. the previous day, so there is always some lag in those numbers.

The most recent two cases confirmed in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, for instance, were not included on the state website when it was updated at noon on Friday.

State health officials said in the Friday press conference that with a positive test in southwest Virginia on Thursday, every region of the state now has at least one confirmed case. There have been 20 total hospitalizations and two deaths in Virginia.

Testing

According to Gov. Northam, the state lab has testing capacity for more than 1,000 patients as of this time.

Officials with the state lab said in the Friday press conference that there is no backlog in test processing, but acknowledged that other states are seeing backups in receiving the reagents needed for tests to be performed.

They said they have "adequate supplies to respond to the testing that they need to," but that the situation is changing on a daily basis.

Dr. Norm Oliver also stated in the Friday briefing that the state would likely be announcing an update to testing criteria for the virus later in the day to make the requirements for testing less restrictive on a statewide level.

But due to testing capacity for 1,000 people still being a limited amount, they will still require screening restrictions to avoid running out of supplies. As of right now, the requirements to receive a test for COVID-19 in facilities across Virginia are that you must show symptoms – including a high fever, cough, and shortness of breath – and have traveled to an affected area or been in contact with a person with a confirmed case.

Virginia health officials acknowledged reports that hospitals are seeing shortages in various forms of equipment, including masks, and that they are working to fill those needs as soon as possible.

Unemployment updates

State leaders said that the Virginia Employment Commission received more than 16,000 applications for unemployment on Thursday alone, which was a little more than the over 14,000 applications received from Monday to Wednesday.

They reiterated that the state's 1-week waiting period to receive benefits has been waived, as well as the regular work search requirement while so many employers remain closed due to the coronavirus.

You can find more information on unemployment claims at www.vec.virginia.gov.

A FAQ guide from the Office of the Governor also outlines policies for workers that have been temporarily laid off or discharged during the public health crisis.

Deploying the National Guard?

When asked if deploying the National Guard is in the works, Gov. Northam said the National Guard has been activated, as that's automatic when declaring a State of Emergency, but they have not been deployed.

Northam said if they are deployed at any point in the days to come, it would be to provide more capacity and staff at hospitals.

Stress and anxiety

Northam also touched on the stress and anxiety that many people are feeling due to the spread of the virus and encouraged people to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK if they are feeling thoughts of suicide. He noted that the Disaster Stress Hotline is also available to provide counseling and support for people during an emergency like this one at 1-800-985-5990.

Where are the confirmed cases?

Representatives for the Virginia Department of Health said in Thursday's briefing that their online system updates each day at noon to show the cases that had been confirmed by 5 p.m. the previous day, so there is always some lag between when local health districts announce positive test results and when the department's numbers reflect those new results.

For instance, the numbers released on Thursday did not include three new cases in the Charlottesville area confirmed by the Thomas Jefferson Health District Thursday morning, which included two new cases in Charlottesville and one in Albemarle County.

The numbers released on Friday did not include the new case in Harrisonburg or the new case in Rockingham County.

We've added those cases in our list below, though.

According to the department's Friday breakdown, 2,325 people in Virginia had been tested for the virus, with 114 positive results.

Their breakdown and location map, available to the public here, has a region-specific breakdown of which cases in an area were travel-related, which came from contact with a known case, and which have unknown sources of transmission.

The sole case in the Shenandoah Valley that appears on the map, for the Harrisonburg patient confirmed last week, has an unknown source of transmission. Health officials have been unable to identify any travel through which the patient could have been exposed or any contact with anyone else that tested positive for the virus.

Dept. of Health investigators are still looking into the two new cases in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, though JMU says the patient in Harrisonburg is a student who recently traveled abroad.

Here's the full breakdown of cases as of noon on March 20:

• Accomack County - 1
• Albemarle County - 1
• Alexandria City - 4
• Arlington County - 17
• Charles City County - 1
• Charlottesville City - 3
• Chesterfield County - 5
• Fairfax County - 16
• Gloucester County - 1
• Goochland County - 1
• Hanover County - 1
• Harrisonburg City - 2
• Henrico County - 3
• James City County - 19
• Loudoun County - 9
• Newport News - 1
• Norfolk - 1
• Portsmouth - 1
• Prince Edward County - 1
• Prince William County - 12
• Richmond City - 5
• Rockingham County -1
• Spotsylvania County - 1
• Stafford County - 2
• Virginia Beach City - 4
• Williamsburg City - 4
• York County - 3