Philip Morris USA employee tests positive for COVID-19

Posted at 1:32 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 13:39:50-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Officials with Altria announced Wednesday that a Philip Morris USA employee has contracted COVID-19.

"Thankfully, the employee is actively recovering and feeling well in self-quarantine at home," company officials said. "We developed rigorous protocols to handle suspected cases, including identifying and notifying, as quickly as possible, those who may have had contact with an affected employee. Those protocols worked well in this case."

Company officials said they are implemented travel restrictions, remote working and social distancing for employees.

"We have enhanced our cleaning regimen and have strictly limited access to our manufacturing facilities to employees essential to production," officials said. "We have implemented plans to minimize business disruptions and their potential impact to our employees, consumers and customers."

Commonwealth COVID-19 Cases Rise

Virginia state health officials report coronavirus cases in the state have climbed to 77, up from 67 cases on Tuesday.

The Central Virginia cases have increased to 14, up from nine cases.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver said there are currently three outbreaks in the state, which is two or more cases that can be traced to a common exposure.

One outbreak is in James City County where there are 17 COVID-19 cases and 315 contacts being investigated. Oliver says the two other outbreaks are in the City of Richmond.

Wednesday morning, Mayor Levar Stoney announced four confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city. Health officials say three of the patients are connected to a Henrico patient who also tested positive.

Officials say the group recently returned from a trip in North Carolina.

Oliver said the state currently has testing capacity at state labs for 260-360 patients, but they are expecting new reagents from the CDC within the next day or so.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, state officials updated their capacity to handle more severe coronavirus patients, like those who need ventilators to assist with her breathing.

Health officials said there are nearly 2000 ICU beds in Virginia that are equipped with ventilators and they have 400 more that can be deployed as needed.

Officials did not specify how many of the ventilators are currently being used.

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials reminds individuals to take the following precautions:

  • 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.