Virginia reported its first death due to the coronavirus on Saturday and said it was likely a result of community transmission.
The patient was a man in his 70s who contracted the virus from an unknown source, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Health. The man’s cause of death was respiratory failure.
“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,” State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver said in a statement.
The man was one of eight patients diagnosed so far in James City County. State Epidemiologist Lilian Peake said in an emailed statement that because the source of his exposure hasn’t been determined, it’s an indicator that the virus is being spread through the community. The health department is investigating his contacts, she said.
Community spread is a term used to describe illnesses where exposure can’t be traced — like in the case of the man who died Saturday.
Peninsula residents should limit their activities and try to socially distance themselves as much as possible, city and county administrators from six localities said Saturday night. They urged residents to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, including church services and other social or civic organization meetings.
“We as a community have the obligation to take further steps to curtail the spread,” the statement said.
As of Saturday, one more Virginia Beach resident has been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the city’s count to three, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Across the state, 41 people have been diagnosed, up from 30 a day earlier.
The state released updated numbers Saturday showing the new Virginia Beach case and an additional case in James City County, which with eight cases is the second-highest number of any locality in Virginia.
The new Virginia Beach case is an 80-year-old man who recently traveled internationally to an area affected by COVID-19, according to the city’s health department. Since returning, the man has limited contact with others, the department said.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and ordered schools closed for at least two weeks starting Monday. Saturday morning, he toured Sentara Healthcare’s COVID-19 command center and met with the mayors of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Northam plans to meet with local officials on the Peninsula on Sunday.
“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,” Northam said in a statement Saturday evening.
William & Mary announced Saturday that a staff member at the college had tested positive for the virus. Last week, the college said a staff member was exposed to a possible case but it was not clear Saturday whether the confirmed case was related to its earlier report.
The state has tested 395 people. Northam said the state’s working on its own test, in conjunction with the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, to increase the number of people who can be tested. Sentara expects to have in-house testing of its own ready to go by March 30.
This is a developing story. Check pilotonline.com throughout the day for updates.
Sara Gregory, 757-469-7484, email@example.com