First confirmed death from coronavirus COVID-19 came Saturday in James City County in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and the county that includes Jamestown and Williamsburg.
The Old Dominion now has 45 residents infected with the disease that is now a global pandemic. Southwestern Virginia remains the only section of the Commonwealth with no reported cases of the disease that has shut down schools, ended the sports seasons at high school, colleges and at the professional level and upended life locally, nationally and around the world.
“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 M. Norman Oliver said in a statement. “The health of our residents and the community is our top priority, and we will continue working together to care for the patients, protect the safety of health care workers, and protect the people in our Commonwealth.”
The victim is identified as a man in his 70s who was hospitalized and one of the early patients diagnosed with the disease. He died of respiratory failure, said a statement from the Virginia Health Department. At the moment, no one is sure how he contracted the disease.
A statement from Gov. Ralph Northam:
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.
The health of Virginians and our communities is my most important priority right now. As a Commonwealth, we have taken major, critical steps to stop the spread of COVID- 19. I have declared a state of emergency, closed K-12 schools across the state, restricted visitors at nursing homes and correctional facilities, limited state employee travel, and canceled large events.”
This is a public health crisis — we must all treat it as such, Again, I urge Virginians: take this seriously. Take basic health precautions, avoid large gatherings, telework if possible, and stay home if you are sick. That will stop the virus from spreading.
It is all of our responsibility, yours and mine, to keep each other safe and healthy. You deserve to know next steps. I will meet with local officials on the Peninsula tomorrow, and we will speak to the community at 12:00 p.m. about additional measures we are taking to combat COVID-19.