VDH confirms 1st coronavirus-related death in Virginia

Published: Mar. 14, 2020 at 5:52 PM EDT
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The Virginia Department of Health has confirmed the first novel coronavirus-related death in Virginia.

According to a statement by the department issued Saturday afternoon, a man in his 70s who contracted COVID-19 through an unknown source died of respiratory failure as a result of the virus.

The patient was in the Peninsula Health District, in the eastern part of the state, which is one of the areas with the most cases in the commonwealth.

“On behalf of the entire Commonwealth, we express our deepest sympathy for the family and loved ones of the patient who died, as well as the families of everyone who has been affected by this outbreak,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “The health of our residents and the community is our top priority, and we will continue working together to care for the patients, protect the safety of health care workers, and protect the people in our Commonwealth.”

The Peninsula Health District has activated its incident management team and is deploying all necessary resources in order to contain the outbreak in the area, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Public health officials are reaching out to all identified contacts of every known COVID-19 case, including the case involving the man's death.

They are interviewing affected people and giving instructions on how to protect themselves and others.

As of Saturday, forty-one patients have tested "presumptive positive" or positive for COVID-19 in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Health has been updating its total number of cases once per day, around noon. On Saturday, the total rose to 41 cases, up from 30 cases on Friday, 17 cases on Thursday and 9 cases on Wednesday.

The total reported by VDH includes both presumptive positive cases – COVID-19 tests that came back positive either at the Virginia state lab or commercial labs but haven't yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – and confirmed positive cases, which have been confirmed by the CDC.

Recent days have brought increased coronavirus testing capacity for Virginia, with the state lab in Richmond receiving more testing kits and many hospitals, including Sentara RMH, gaining access to testing through commercial labs. That means more reported cases were expected as more people gained the ability to be tested.

On Thursday, the first positive test was

for a Harrisonburg patient that had been hospitalized at Sentara RMH after developing pneumonia-like symptoms.

Since then, there have no other confirmed cases in the western part of the state.

The VDH provided the following breakdown of locations for all 41 cases reported as of Saturday: 10 in Fairfax County, 8 in James City County, 7 in Arlington County, 5 in Loudoun County, 3 in Virginia Beach, 2 in Prince William County, 1 in Spotsylvania County, 1 in Prince Edward County, 1 in Hanover County, 1 in Chesterfield County, 1 in Alexandria, and 1 in Harrisonburg.

On the global scale, you can find a map by Johns Hopkins University tracking worldwide confirmed numbers of cases and deaths


Governor Ralph Northam issued the following statement in response to the confirmed virus death:

“Pam and I were deeply saddened to learn that a Virginian has died from COVID-19, and we grieve for everyone this virus has touched around the world. “The health of Virginians and our communities is my most important priority right now. As a Commonwealth, we have taken major, critical steps to stop the spread of COVID- 19. I have declared a state of emergency, closed K-12 schools across the state, restricted visitors at nursing homes and correctional facilities, limited state employee travel, and canceled large events. “This is a public health crisis—we must all treat it as such. “Again, I urge Virginians: take this seriously. Take basic health precautions, avoid large gatherings, telework if possible, and stay home if you are sick. That will stop the virus from spreading. “It is all of our responsibility, yours and mine, to keep each other safe and healthy. “You deserve to know next steps. I will meet with local officials on the Peninsula tomorrow, and we will speak to the community at 12:00 PM about additional measures we are taking to combat COVID-19.”
What to know about COVID-19

Most people don't suffer much from COVID-19, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly and people with existing health problems.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

• 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.

For the latest factual information on COVID-19, you're encouraged to check both the

and the