Suffolk resident diagnosed with COVID-19

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

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By Tracy Agnew


A Suffolk resident who recently returned from a trip to New York has become the first positive case of COVID-19 in the Western Tidewater Health District.

The patient is a male in his 50s, according to a Thursday evening news release from the health district. He is not hospitalized.

The patient described a rapid onset of symptoms, and quickly self-isolated, which greatly limited potential contacts,” Western Tidewater Health District Director Dr. Todd Wagner stated in the news release. “We are monitoring the situation and working closely with medical authorities to make sure we are providing the best information to this patient and his family.”

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

Will Drewery, emergency manager for the Western Tidewater Health District, said the patient in this case did all of the right things.

He started noticing the symptoms and went and sought care at his primary care physician,” Drewery said.

The physician administered the test, which came back positive. Drewery did not know the exact dates of the onset of the man’s symptoms or the test, but he noted the symptoms began after the man returned from New York. The patient immediately self-isolated.

We think it’s extremely important to let folks know he did exactly what he was supposed to do, and the physician did exactly what they have been told to do,” Drewery said.

Drewery said the man did not report going to any large events in Suffolk after his return.

As a result of the man’s prudent actions, his close contacts were extremely limited, Drewery said. All of those people have been contacted and also are being asked to self-isolate and notify the health district if they become symptomatic.

The contacts in this case are extremely limited, because he did take those measures we have been beating the drum on,” Drewery stated.

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, New York has the highest total of cases in the United States. As of noon Thursday, the CDC was reporting nearly 4,600 cases there, with widespread community transmission.

Statewide in Virginia, the number of people with positive cases of COVID-19 stood at 94 at noon Thursday, a total compiled Wednesday night, Dr. Lilian Peake, state epidemiologist, stated Thursday in a press conference with Gov. Ralph Northam. That total did not include the Suffolk case or other cases that had been announced in Norfolk and Portsmouth due to the lag time.
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. 

TRACY AGNEW is editor of The Suffolk News-Herald. Contact her at