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'No signs' of COVID-19 community spread in Virginia, officials say

'Take simple precautionary measures.'
Posted at 1:09 PM, Mar 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-08 20:48:57-04

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. -- Authorities said there are "no signs" COVID-19 is spreading in the community after two people tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend.

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peak said during a news briefing Sunday afternoon that two presumptive cases are not related and that both people traveled internationally days before developing symptoms.

"Both tests will be confirmed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Peak said.

Officials said 44 Virginians have been tested for the novel coronavirus as of 9 a.m. Sunday.

Thirty-six results were negative and officials are awaiting the results on the other six tests.

"Virginia has been preparing for the possibility of cases occurring in the Commonwealth since early January when the 2019 novel coronavirus was first identified in China," Peak said.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said a  "coordinated public health response is already underway" for the "very complex and rapidly evolving" situation.

Oliver said that while the risks to the general public is low, officials are working to identify people who had contact with the two people infected with virus.

"The virus is spreading much like a novel influenza virus would," Norment noted. "The Department of Health has led a very robust and comprehensive pandemic influenza preparedness effort since 2004. VDH successfully responded to the H1NW flu pandemic in 2009 to 2010."

Fairfax man with COVID-19 took Nile River cruise 

Officials said Virginia's second presumptive case is a Fairfax man in his 80s who recently traveled on a Nile River cruise.

"The patient developed symptoms of respiratory illness on Feb. 28, and was hospitalized on March 5, with symptoms of fever. fever, cough, fatigue and shortness of breath," Dr. Benjamin Schwartz,  Fairfax's director of epidemiology and population health, said.

Schwartz said that as of Friday, the man remained hospitalized in stable condition.

Officials said the man had "limited contact with others" while he was sick, so they risk remains low.

Schwartz said officials are "investigating those contacts in the locations where significant exposure may have occurred and... the virus may have been transmitted."

But Schwartz cautioned that number is likely low and that no school-aged children in the community were exposed.

"And we are currently investigating the exposures that they may have had in the healthcare setting," Schwartz said. 

Officials are waiting on the CDC to confirm the test results.

Marine tests positive for COVID-19

A Northern Virginia marine stationed at Marine Base Corps Quantico was Virginia's first COVID-19 case.

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.

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 confirm first coronavirus case in nation's capital

Officials in Washington, D.C., say a man in his 50s has tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first presumptively confirmed case in the nation’s capital.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said Saturday that the man started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in late February and was hospitalized Thursday.

She said another man, from Nigeria, who had passed through Washington has also tested positive for the virus in Maryland.

Coronavirus cases swell in US

The number of U.S. coronavirus cases swelled to 541, 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 21 Sunday.

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

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 109,800 people and killed over 3,800, with the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.