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IW reports COVID-19 case

The Western Tidewater Health District has now verified a positive test in Isle of Wight County for COVID-19, according to a Friday press release from Isle of Wight County.

The patient is a 27-year-old female with a Smithfield address, the news release stated.

“The WTHD is beginning their evaluation of the case and their potential contact investigation process,” the press release stated. “Any individuals at high risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 through contact with this person will be contacted by the health department as part of the contact investigation process.”

This is the second case reported in the Western Tidewater Health District. A Suffolk man in his 50s was confirmed to have the virus on Thursday.

The Western Tidewater Health District includes Suffolk, Franklin, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and the outbreak was first identified in China in December. Since that time, it has spread worldwide and been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Statewide in Virginia, the number of people with positive cases of COVID-19 stood at least at 115 at noon Friday.

William Drewery, emergency planner for the Western Tidewater Health District, gave a handful of more details about the Suffolk patient on Friday.

The Suffolk patient was already reported to have become ill after returning from New York, a news release from the health district stated on Thursday. He immediately self-isolated and was tested at his primary care physician, and is not hospitalized.

The only additional information Drewery was able to reveal Friday is the date the man was seen at his physician — March 16. Drewery said that he is not able to identify any businesses or public places the man may have visited between his return to Virginia and the onset of symptoms, nor is he able to say more specifically where in Suffolk the man lives.

In a Friday morning news conference with Gov. Ralph Northam, State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver urged Virginians to continue practicing social distancing.

“We do not have a medicine for COVID-19,” he said. “We do not have a vaccine for COVID -19. The only thing we have to prevent the spread of this disease is social distancing, so we need to all do that.”

Northam thanked most citizens and businesses for heeding the social distancing warnings and reminded that local authorities have the power to enforce the restrictions of no more than 10 people in restaurants, gyms and similar establishments at a time.

“I know Virginians want to do the right thing so we can get through this situation together,” he said.

City spokeswoman Diana Klink stated Friday morning that the Suffolk Police Department has not received any complaints related to the restrictions.

“The Western Tidewater Health District is leading the efforts in our area to enforce Governor Northam’s recent order that says that a maximum of 10 patrons can be inside any restaurant statewide at any one time,” Police Chief Thomas Bennett stated. “The Suffolk Police Department would become involved only in those rare instances when the Health Department is unable to force compliance, and we would certainly work with the owners to achieve that goal.

“As a last resort, we do have the right to issue a summons or even arrest the owners, but that would definitely be a final resort. We understand these are trying times for everyone, and our ultimate goal is always to protect the public.”

Northam also spent a great deal of time during Friday’s news conference acknowledging that this situation is hard on people’s mental health.

“I know this is hard on people’s morale,” he said. “It is very, very stressful; it is scary.”

He urged anyone who is feeling depressed or suicidal to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

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.

Practice social distancing. Maintain at least six feet of space between yourself and other individuals when out in public.

Avoid crowds of more than 10 people.

Call your healthcare professional if you feel sick with fever, cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Stay home except for getting medical care.

If you have questions about COVID-19 or what actions you should take, visit the VDH (www.vdh.virginia.gov) or CDC (www.cdc.gov) websites. The VDH also has an information hotline — 877-ASK-VDH3 — that you can call to get answers to your COVID-19 questions.