The West Piedmont Health District, which includes Martinsville and Henry County, now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

A 60-year-old Franklin County woman has been diagnosed positive for the COVID-19 virus, also called coronavirus, West Piedmont Population Health Manager Nancy Bell said Friday night.

She was exposed to the virus while traveling and is staying isolated at home. To protect her privacy, no further information will be provided, said Bell, whose district also includes Franklin and Patrick counties.

Earlier Friday an official from Sovah-Martinsville said that dozens of tests had been conducted at the facility, but none has had a positive outcome.

As of Saturday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health reported that there were 152 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia. Apart from the case in Franklin County the closest known positive case was one in Prince Edward and Mecklenburg counties, some 100 miles from Martinsville.

VDH reported that 25 people had been hospitalized, and two had died.

On Friday evening, after confirming the Franklin County case, Bell warned, “Folks should avoid gatherings, even on Sunday.”

Kelly Fitzgerald, spokesperson for Sovah Health-Martinsville, said on Friday afternoon that “dozens of patients have been tested across both campuses, and to date, there has not been a positive case.

“In the event Sovah Health has a positive case of COVID-19, we will work with our partners at the local health departments and VDH to release the information to the public.”

By “both campuses” she was referring also the hospital in Danville.

Bell earlier Friday responded to questions from the Bulletin that “health officials appear to be very concerned.

“They are watching the models and monitoring the tests that are coming back. It is likely our area will not be spared, but the extent to which it impacts us will depend on people taking the warnings seriously and staying home whenever possible.”

Bell said that tests for COVID-19 have been conducted at local doctor’s offices and hospitals.

The VDH is working on breaking down how many tests are done by locality, Bell said. By next week, that information should be published on its website, she had said earlier.

During a briefing on Friday, VDH Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver had said that test supplies have been ordered, and some already are arriving to increase capacity for testing, she said.

The West Piedmont Health District is monitoring the situation closely, and staff attend daily briefings with VDH, Bell said.

“A local incident command center has been established, and we are fielding questions daily. However, http://www.vdh.virginia.gov has a dedicated web page on Coronavirus. Numbers and a map of positive cases are updated every afternoon,” she said.

She warned that anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 should follow doctor’s orders.

“If they have serious symptoms, the physician will likely tell them to go to the hospital. Otherwise, they will be advised to follow general flu advice – hydrating, best rest, isolation from others, etc.,” she wrote.

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small percentage of patients, COVID-19 canlead to more severe illness or death, especially among the elderly and infirm. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

To lower the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the VDH recommends:

  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently
  • Practice social distancing, with at least 6 feet distance from other people
  • Avoid crowds of more than 10 people

Overall, Bell said, “If everyone does their part, we can minimize the impact of the virus in our region.”

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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