Marine tests positive for coronavirus at Virginia army base

Posted at 7:36 PM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 23:18:25-05

FORT BELVOIR, Va. – Authorities said a marine stationed at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County has tested positive for COVID-19.

Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said the marine who tested positive Saturday is being treated at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

“The Marine recently returned from overseas where he was on official business,” Hoffman said.

A Defense Department official said on background prior to the public announcement that this is the first reported U.S. military case inside this country.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said they are working with Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, according to "longstanding public health protocols."

"The teams are in regular and close communication with federal, state, local, and private sector partners, VDH officials said.

VDH officials said Gov. Northam and cabinet officials were briefed on the incident.

Additionally, Hoffman said the White House had been briefed on the situation.

News of the marine’s diagnosis marked Virginian’s first official case of COVID-19. Health officials are awaiting the results for seven others being tested and said 139 people are currently being monitored to see if they develop symptoms.

"Public health officials caution that evidence has not been seen of COVID-19 spreading in Virginia and said the risk is low," VDH officials noted.

Virginia health officials reminded folks to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Officials in the nation’s capital also confirmed the district’s first COVID-19 case Saturday evening.

Officials said a man from DC is in his 50s and was admitted to the hospital Thursday.

“He started exhibiting symptoms in late February,” DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “He presented and was admitted to a DC hospital on March 5.”

“The person has no prior history of travel outside the United States,” DC Health officials said. “While this is first case in the District, there is still no widespread community transmission and the general level of risk for residents is low.”

Officials said they were also aware of a person who visited DC and later tested positive for COVID-19.

The person then showed up at a hospital in Maryland and tested positive for the virus, officials said.

“DC Health is conducting contact tracing of that patient and individuals with known contact,” Bowser said.

The number of U.S. coronavirus cases swelled to 400, with cases in about half of the states. Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pennsylvania also recently reported their first cases.

The death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose to 19 Saturday.

Sixteen people in Washington state, two people in Florida and one person in California have died.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 106,000 people and killed over 3,500, with the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.

President Donald Trump signed a $8.3 billion funding bill Friday to help public health agencies address the crisis. The bill was widely supported by lawmakers on both side of the aisle.

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