Coronavirus deaths in Virginia rise to 13

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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — Virginia health officials announced three additional deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, and then a fourth death on Wednesday afternoon, bringing the state's total to 13.

Health officials said two were reported in the Peninsula Health District and one in the Pittsylvania Health District Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, officials confirmed that another patient at a Henrico long-term rehab center also died of COVID-19.

That patient was the third from that same rehab center to die of the virus.

Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center deaths

The third death in Henrico comes after officials said two elderly residents of the Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center died on Tuesday of the virus. The three were among several from the center being treated at a hospital for the coronavirus.

“The Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center has worked closely over several days with the Henrico Health Department to confirm the virus and relocate the affected patients to the hospital for care. They are following health department guidance and taking necessary steps to protect the health and safety of their residents and staff,” a release said.

The center said over the last 11 days,14 Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Three of them were the patients who died.

Two residents are being treated at a regional hospital and while nine other patients are being treated at the center in an isolated unit with dedicated nurses and staff. Additionally, four Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

“The safety and health of Canterbury residents and staff is our primary concern. We are working directly with local and state health departments and taking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols to help contain further spread of the virus,” the medical director said.

More than a week ago, the facility worked with health officials to implement measures to control transmission, including establishing a dedicated ward for residents with symptoms.

As an additional measure, the facility retained an industrial cleaning service to provide full and ongoing decontamination of the facility.

“This includes both daily deep cleaning and the incorporation of six hydroxyl generators, which create airborne hydroxyl radicals that treat pathogens in both the air and on surfaces,” the medical director said.

The center is monitoring all residents for symptoms along with daily employee screenings. Employees with respiratory symptoms and fever are prohibited from entering the facility.

“The health department is continuing to collaborate with the facility to reduce risk of transmission, conduct contact investigation, and to implement control measures,” a release said.

“While our thoughts, efforts and prayers are focused on our residents and the families of those who have passed, we also want to that those nurses, doctors, therapists, aides, housekeepers, dietary staff and maintenance teams that are working tirelessly to care for our elders. Their brave professionalism and dedication to the people in our care is a testament to the love and respect we all share for our residents,” Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center said.

On-site visitation for family members is still prohibited, but administrators encourage families to visit virtually by telephone or video call, email, text or instant messaging.

“There are serious concerns," said Richmond and Henrico Health Director Danny Avula. He praised Canterbury for their quick response and how they’re working with health leaders to contain the virus.

But he says there’s a sad reality.

“It’s likely not over. Whether its this facility or another, we’re going to likely have more sick individuals in congregant care facilities. We’re likely going to have more deaths in congregant care facilities.”

The health director wants everyone to treat COVID 19 seriously.

“For so many folks who are like ‘we’ll be ok. We’ll just go hang out at the park or hang out with friends’, I hope this hits home in a different way and makes us realize that this is real. It’s in our community and we really do need to take every precaution we can not just for ourselves and for our neighbors," Avula said.

Avula says the Richmond and Henrico health departments have a total of roughly 300 test kits right now. But they’re reserving those for people who meet specific conditions - the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and healthcare workers and first responders who are showing symptoms.

Peninsula Health District

Peninsula Health District officials said the patients were both females with one in her 80s and the other in her 60s. Both tested positive for COVID-19 and the cause of death was respiratory failure.

Health officials said it is unknown how the two acquired the virus.

“We at VDH are so sorry to hear of the loss of more Peninsula residents. I want to express our sadness and let the families and friends of the patients know we are thinking about them during this difficult time,” said Peninsula Acting Health Director Dr. Steve Julian. “I want to remind our community about how important it is to follow the recommendations being provided to protect our elderly and those with underlying conditions. Everyone has a responsibility to protect each other.”

Pittsylvania-Danville Health District

The Pittsylvania-Danville Health District did not provide any identifying information about the patient who died, but said they were receiving care at an out-of-state hospital.

“We express our sincere condolences to this person’s family,” said Scott Spillmann, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. “Unfortunately those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Everyone, especially at-risk individuals, are strongly advised to take steps to minimize contact with others who are ill, practice social distancing and stay at home as much as possible.”

The announcements came following two deaths of Henrico residents on Tuesday, March 24.

Since the newest confirmed deaths came on Wednesday morning and were not submitted to the Virginia Department of Health, they are not yet listed on the Virginia Dept. of Health website, which is updated at noon each day based on numbers submitted to the department as of 5 p.m. the previous day.