The Loudoun County Health Department announced Tuesday that one resident has tested “presumptive positive” for coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
The presumptive positive case is a Loudoun resident in his or her 40s. The patient is believed to have come in contact with the virus while attending Christ Church, Georgetown in Washington, DC.
The church’s reverend, Timothy Cole, tested positive for the virus and the church has suspended all services and meetings until further notice. Cole, who is in his late 50s, reportedly was diagnosed with the flue on March 3, pneumonia on March 5, and COVID-19 on March 7.
The Loudoun resident was brought to the attention of the Health Department early Tuesday morning, March 10, following testing for the novel coronavirus by the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services in Richmond. The positive test result is considered a presumptive positive, pending confirmatory testing by CDC.
The patient is currently doing well and is isolated at home, county leaders said.
Loudoun’s first coronavirus case marks the eighth known infection in Virginia. As of Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health’s website showed five cases in the commonwealth’s northern region, two in the eastern region and one in the northwest.
To address community concerns, county leaders held a press conference on Tuesday—with Loudoun County Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend, County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), Supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Mike Turner (D-Ashburn) and Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg), Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk, Sheriff Mike Chapman and Fire-Rescue Chief Keith Johnson in attendance.
Goodfriend said it was not unexpected to have “presumptive positive” cases in Loudoun. He said the county has been preparing for an outbreak like this for the past 15 years, seeing that Loudoun is home to Dulles Airport where thousands of people travelling from foreign countries enter the county each day.
“We’re always one flight or one car ride way from any infection that’s rounded the world,” he said.
But, Goodfriend said, just travelling through Dulles Airport is not viewed as a health risk.
Randall said county leaders are doing everything they can to protect against a widespread outbreak and that the risk of other residents contracting coronavirus from this week’s first reported case in Loudoun remains low.
“We are continuing to do everything in our power to keep Loudoun safe and healthy,” she said. “Our highest priority is keeping people safe.”
Randall said the county was committed to supporting its residents by being transparent, keeping them fully informed, taking action that’s based on detailed planning and making decisions based on facts and science.
Randall urged residents to not stockpile supplies, such as hand sanitizer, so that all residents have the chance to buy some. She also urged them to stay at home if they feel ill and, most importantly, to follow guidelines for handwashing.
“That is the number one thing we need from the public right now,” she said.
When asked who should be tested for coronavirus, Goodfriend said anyone who feels sick should make an appointment with their health care provider.
“If people are feeling healthy, there’s not a good reason to be tested unless you’re a contact of a known case,” he said.
Although the coronavirus outbreak comes at a time the county is revising its the Pandemic Plan, Randall said that effort wasn’t triggered by the outbreak.
“There is a plan in place at all times,” she said. “We adjust the plan as needed.”
COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, and appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Learn more about COVID-19 on the county’s website at loudoun.gov/coronavirus, which includes a link to sign up for updates. Website. Residents may also text LCCOVID19 to 888777 receive text alerts from Loudoun County about COVID-19.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will also hear a briefing on the coronavirus outbreak and the county’s preparedness and response efforts during a special meeting of the Board at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11. That briefing will be attended by officials from Dulles and the medical community.
Goodfriend will answer questions from the public about COVID-19 Thursday during a Facebook Live event on the Loudoun County Government’s page on Facebook from 1 to 2 p.m.
Moving forward, Randall said the county would provide a steady flow of information via its website and social media accounts.
“I urge Loudoun County residents to remain vigilant and to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and others,” she said.
First Responder Possibly Exposed
On Saturday, the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System was informed that a system member had come in contact with an individual outside of Loudoun County who has since tested positive for the coronavirus.
While showing no symptoms of infection, the individual has been self-quarantined out of an abundance of caution.
Schools Cancel Overseas Travel, Int’l Summit Travel
Loudoun Schools Superintendent Eric William on Sunday sent an alert to all parents and school division employees to provide an update on preparations.
A key development was the decision to suspend all school-sponsored international travel through June 30, and to cancel foreign travel for the annual Loudoun International Youth Leadership Summit, which is scheduled to begin March 20 at Dominion High School. Foreign students will have to participate virtually instead.
“We are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution, and in keeping with recent guidance from the Virginia Department of Health that school divisions should reconsider their travel plans,” Williams wrote.
Also, participation in instructional field trips, athletic trips and other student activity trips will be viewed as optional, with schools providing alternative activities for students who do not participate in an instructional field trip.
Leesburg Council Briefed on Coronavirus Resources
During the Leesburg Town Council’s budget discussions Monday night, the topic of how the town government is preparing for the local transmission of coronavirus came up frequently.
“I don’t want to be behind the eight ball in preparedness for any kind of epidemic that impacts this area,” Vice Mayor Martinez said, further advocating for dedicated funding for emergency response in the budget.
Town Manager Kaj Dentler said there has been no funding set aside in the budget for coronavirus response, or any emergency situation, but reiterated his previous proposal to put any surplus in the General Fund at year’s end aside for storm or emergency response.
Like many localities, the Town of Leesburg is following the lead of the Loudoun County Health Department, and has dedicated a page on the town website to address emergency preparedness. A copy of the town’s Emergency Preparation Guide and other resources are available at leesburgva.gov/residents/emergency-preparedness. Thus far, there has been no indication that any town meetings or events will be changed or cancelled in the ever-evolving coronavirus situation.
Blood Donations Sought
The American Red Cross is urging healthy, eligible individuals to give blood or platelets now to help prevent blood shortages that could result from lower donor participation in the event of a widespread outbreak.