VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WHSV) — A seventh death from COVID-19 has been confirmed in Virginia.
According to the Virginia Beach Health Department, their district has reported the first death of a hospitalized patient who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in their area.
Health officials say the patient was a man in his 70s with underlying health conditions.
His cause of death was acute respiratory failure.
The department has begun investigating who the patient had been in contact with in the weeks leading up to his hospitalization and death.
They say, at this point, it's too early in the process to identify the source of transmission for the virus.
“It is a sad day in our city after learning a Virginia Beach resident has died of the virus. Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” said Virginia Beach Health Director Dr. Demetria Lindsay. “Elderly individuals and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, including death. These 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 case, which hadn't previously been confirmed as COVID-19, marks the 18th positive case in Virginia Beach, which is considered a cluster of cases by Gov. Ralph Northam's office.
Health department officials in the area say several recent cases there may represent the first signs of community spread, and the extent of that is unknown at this point.
“We must take action now. The choices of each of us affects our community. Public health practices by everyone are critical to slow and blunt the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Lindsay.
The death brings Virginia's total number of deaths from COVID-19 to seven. Over the weekend, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported three new deaths, all of which were women in their 80s in the Peninsula Health District: Newport News, Williamsburg and James City County respectively.
There have been 38 total hospitalizations across the state, amid the 254 confirmed cases. At this point, the VDH is not listing the total number of patients that have recovered, as more testing capacity means new case totals have been rapidly climbing.
However, the large majority of people who contract COVID-19 do survive and do recover.
The Virginia Beach Health Department has a call center open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday – Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For COVID-19 questions in that area, call 757-683-2745.
Total cases in Virginia
The Virginia Department of Health updates its state website at noon each day with the new total and a breakdown of the cases by locality. Those numbers are based on the cases that had been submitted to the department by 5 p.m. the previous day, so there is always some lag in numbers appearing in the state total.
This most recent case and death will be included in the state numbers on Tuesday.
According to the health department's latest update as of noon on March 23, 254 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed across the commonwealth.
The large majority are in northern and eastern Virginia.
Where are the confirmed cases?
According to the department's Monday breakdown, 3,697 people in Virginia had been tested for the virus, with 254 positive results.
Their breakdown and location map, available to the public here, briefly had 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 — However, those numbers were discontinued by the VDH due to the logistics of keeping them updated with the constantly growing case total.
Dept. of Health investigators are still looking into the most recently confirmed cases in Rockingham County to determine who the patients may have been in contact with.
The initial case in Harrisonburg was for a patient in their 60s. One of the Rockingham County cases was for a patient in their 30s or 40s.
The other most recently identified Rockingham County case was a JMU student who traveled to Spain over her spring break before returning home early as travel restrictions went into effect. She shared her experience with the coronavirus with WHSV this past weekend, saying she expects many people may not realize they have been infected, like she initially didn't.
She self-quarantined as soon as she returned to the U.S.
Here's the full breakdown of cases as of noon on March 23:
• Alexandria City - 6
• Botetourt County - 1
• Arlington County - 34
• Harrisonburg - 1
• Rockbridge County - 1
• Rockingham County - 2
• Amherst County - 1
• Bedford County - 1
• Chesterfield County - 9
• Charles City County - 1
• Goochland County - 2
• Hanover County - 2
• Accomack County - 1
• Fairfax County - 43
• Henrico County - 11
• Lee County - 2
• Loudoun County - 15
• Norfolk - 4
• James City County - 34
• Newport News - 2
• Williamsburg - 5
• York County - 5
• Prince Edward County - 1
• Danville - 1
• Portsmouth - 1
• Prince William County - 18
• Spotsylvania County - 2
• Stafford County - 6
• Culpeper County - 2
• Richmond - 8
• Mecklenburg County - 1
• Albemarle County - 2
• Charlottesville - 4
• Fluvanna County - 1
• Louisa County - 2
• Gloucester County - 2
• Virginia Beach - 17
• Franklin County - 1
• Isle of Wight County - 1
• Suffolk County - 1
Flattening the Curve
All of the cancellations in our state and across the country are happening in hopes of “flattening the curve” of the virus.
While letting the virus spread rapidly could shorten the duration of the pandemic, it could be a lot of strain on hospitals, putting them overcapacity. The goal is to keep the apex curve below hospital capacity.
How can we prevent the spread?
People are rushing to stores to buy cleaning supplies or other items in the event of a quarantine.
To help your shopping, the Environmental Protection Agency has expanded its list of disinfectants that have qualified for use against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. The list contains nearly 200 additional products, including 40 new products that went through the agency’s expedited review process.
But in the end, hand washing and social distancing is your best bet!
Who gets tested for the virus?
Currently, there are two main reasons someone would be tested for the coronavirus: having symptoms or exposure to an infected person.
The main symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. These look a lot like the flu and the common cold, so it takes a physician to determine if testing for the virus is necessary.
How does the coronavirus test work?
For a patient, the process of being tested for the virus is easy and can potentially be done almost anywhere. It typically involves taking a swab from deep in a patient’s nasal cavity to collect cells from the back of the nose.
The sample is then sent to a lab, where it will be tested to determine if the patient’s cells are infected with the virus. The same process is used to collect a sample from a patient who is tested for flu.
What to know about preventing the virus
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.