Health officials confirm Dinwiddie’s first case of COVID-19

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: April 6, 2020 | 2:25 p.m.

Over 50 cases of COVID-19 in eight Crater Health District communities 

REGION – Dinwiddie County has become the latest Virginia community to record its first positive case of coronavirus, according to information provided by the local health district Monday.

In a statement, representatives from the Virginia Department of Health confirmed a Dinwiddie woman in her 30s was hospitalized with COVID-19, the county’s first positive case of the respiratory illness and the eighth locality within the Crater Health District, which includes the county, Prince George, Sussex, Surry, the Tri-Cities, Greensville, and the City of Emporia, to report at least one case.

“We continue to collaborate with our city, county and community partners to respond to cases throughout the Crater Health District. We are monitoring patient updates and identifying their close contacts,” said Crater Health District Director Dr. Alton Hart, Jr. “The health department carries out in-depth interviews with confirmed cases and works with our healthcare partners in efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community and across the Commonwealth.” 

According to the Virginia Department of Health, as of Monday, over 50 cases of COVID-19 were reported within the Crater Health District. A majority of the cases were concentrated in three communities: Prince George with 18 and 10 cases each in Petersburg and Hopewell. 

“Dinwiddie was fortunate to have gone this long without a confirmed case of COVID-19,” County Administrator Kevin Massengill said. “We knew it was a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ this would happen. Our thoughts and prayers are with this individual and her family.”

Even before Monday’s confirmation of a case of COVID-19 in Dinwiddie County, government officials had taken several steps to protect the public and the local workforce from the spread of the disease.  

One of the first was to declare a local emergency, which helped mobilize resources and allow the county’s emergency managers to move forward with key purchases, including personal protection equipment, or PPE, assets for first responders heading to calls where a patient could be suffering from flu-like symptoms.

On March 25, County Administrator Massengill announced the county’s government center along Boydton Plank Road would be closed to the public until further notice. The Dinwiddie Health Department, located on the first floor of the center remains open and accessible through the building’s main entrance that faces the Dinwiddie County Courthouse. 

That closure came on the heels of Dinwiddie canceling all parks and recreation-related activities and shutting the doors to the county’s rec facilities in late March, including the Eastside Enhancement Center and the Ragsdale Community Center in McKenney.

To maintain the continuity of government and its daily operations, the county has also shifted to alternating work schedules for its workforce, allowing some to work from home one day, then return to their offices the next on a rotating basis with their co-workers. 

Other employees who worked closely with the county’s parks and recreation department on a part-time basis have been informed, given the cancelation of events and closure of the county’s facilities, work in the area they were hired for isn’t available but they may be asked to work in other capacities within Dinwiddie County. 

As for the Dinwiddie County Board of Supervisors, who are still required to carry out the public’s business even amid the COVID-19 panemic, they have adopted several practices to protect themselves, county employees, and the public. In late March, the board moved to adopt a remote meeting participation policy, allowing supervisors to partake in meeting through teleconference so as long as three supervisors were physically present at the pre-determined meeting location.

Since that March meeting, the board has used that policy twice with Chairman Daniel Lee and Supervisors Dr. Mark Moore and Harrison Moody being on-hand for the meeting, creating a quorum for the meeting to take place, while Vice-Chair Brenda Ebron-Bonner and Supervisor William Chavis phoned into the meeting, partaking in the discussion and voting on action items. 

Adhering to strict social distancing guidelines – which recommends at least six feet of space between individuals – and Governor Ralph Northam’s ban on nonessential gatherings of ten or more people, the county has also implemented changes to its public comment process. Among those changes, residents are encourged to submit comments digitally by emailing them to swray@dinwiddieva.us, mailing them to the county’s offices to Stephanie Wray, PO Drawer 70, Dinwiddie, Virginia 23841, or by calling 804-469-4500, option 1, extension 2103.

The county has also developed ways to allow residents to listen in on meetings of the board of supervisors from the comfort of their home as Dinwiddie leaders seek to maintain, and even increase transparancy within the county’s government at a time where residents have been directed to remain at home, especially those in high-risk groups like the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. 

More information on the county’s new public meeting and comment procedures can be found at at http://dinwiddieva.us.

On Monday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia continued to rise as nearly 2,900 cases of the respriatory illness have been reported as a majority of the Commonwealth’s localities have reported at least one case of the disease.

Nearly 500 people have been hospitalized and 54 people have died in Virginia. Testing continues to expand, with over 24,500 people having been tested for COVID-19 as of Monday, roughly double the total from seven days earlier.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days after exposure to an infectious person. 

“We all need to monitor ourselves for symptoms and practice social distancing as much as possible,” said Epidemiologist Senior Dr. E. Katrina Saphrey.

On the frontlines of the county’s response to the illness, Dinwiddie Fire and EMS Chief Dennis Hale echoed the sentiments of area health leaders.

“It is crucial that people adhere to guidelines designed to slow the spread of COVID-19,” he said.”We all need to stay at home if possible – going out only for essential purposes, practice social distancing outside the home, wash hands frequently with soap and water, use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available, and avoid touching the face.”

To lower the risk from spreading respiratory germs, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

  • Stay home as much as possible, especially when you are sick. 
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
  • 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.
  • Practice social distancing. Maintain at least six feet of space between yourself and other individuals when out in public.

The Crater Health District has activated coronavirus call center, staffed Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. to address questions from residents. Community members may call the Crater Call Center at 804-862-8989 or 877-ASK-VDH3, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

For more information on COVID-19, please visit the following websites: www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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