Press Club

BREAKING: Arlington Announces First Coronavirus Case

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Health have announced the county’s first “presumptive” case of coronavirus.

An individual in their 60s who recently returned from international travel tested positive for the rapidly-spreading disease, the county said.

“The positive result returned Sunday evening is considered presumptive, pending confirmation by the CDC,” Arlington County said in a press release. “The individual had limited contact with others while ill and the risk to the general Arlington community remains low.”

Elsewhere in Northern Virginia, a City of Fairfax resident and a Marine at Fort Belvoir recently tested positive for coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The Marine Corps said in a statement that the Marine was “administratively attached to Henderson Hall,” which is in Arlington.

Asked this morning whether any person or workplace in Arlington was contacted by the health department after potential contact with the Marine, a spokesman for Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services said only that it is “[Virginia Dept. of Health] policy not to provide that level of detail.” (Update: Office tenants in Crystal City are being told that a coronavirus patient worked in a local office building.)

Arlington Public Schools said in an email to parents Monday afternoon that schools are staying open for now, despite the first local case.

“At this time, our schools remain open and there are no changes to school-sponsored activities,” APS said. “Any change to normal operating status would be based on a recommendation from health officials.”

Arlington Transit, meanwhile, has announced that it distributing hand sanitizer to employees and will now “deep clean and sanitize all buses thoroughly at the end of each night by using approved disinfectant to wipe down all stanchions, hand rails, passenger seats, windows and all components in the driver’s area.”

The full press release on the Arlington County coronavirus case is below, after the jump.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that an Arlington County resident has tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). VDH and the Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) are working together to identify any close contacts of this resident who would require testing or monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19.

This is the third presumptive positive result, with the other two being a Marine Base Quantico resident and Fairfax City resident. All three cases were exposed through international travel.

The Virginia Department of Health has activated a public information line, 877-ASK-VDH3, for questions from residents about the novel coronavirus situation.

“The Virginia Department of Health, hospitals, and healthcare providers across the state have been preparing for the possibility of residents with COVID-19. We are working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments to identify possible cases and prevent the spread of the virus,” said State Health Commissioner, M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “Our focus now is that the individual receive the care needed to recover, complete additional investigations, and protect the health of all Virginians.”

The individual is a resident of Arlington County in their 60s who developed fever, cough and shortness of breath after having returned from international travel. The resident is receiving medical care and is currently recuperating. The positive result returned Sunday evening is considered presumptive, pending confirmation by the CDC.

The individual had limited contact with others while ill and the risk to the general Arlington community remains low.

“We are working closely with our health care partners and the state to monitor the patient and identify and work with their close contacts,” said Arlington County Health Director Reuben K. Varghese, MD, MPH. “Confirming a case of COVID-19 in an Arlington resident does not come as a surprise given international travel from an affected area. We understand the risk of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) increases among close contacts of infected persons.”

The coronavirus that causes 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. Symptoms 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.

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.

This is a rapidly changing situation, and information is being shared as it becomes available on the following websites: CDCVDH and Arlington County Public Health.

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