RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Four men who live in the city of Richmond have tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling out-of-state earlier this month.
Mayor Levar Stoney and Dr. Danny Avula with the Richmond and Henrico Department of Health announced those first cases in the city at a news conference Wednesday morning.
"Each case that we confirm, I hope, is a reminder to our general public about the seriousness of this and just how widespread this is in our community," Avula said.
Stoney said the city will be enforcing the public health emergency order put in place Tuesday night by Governor Ralph Northam.
"Our food inspectors, who are typically permitting restaurants, have been instructed to visit restaurants in the community,” Avula said. “If there are restaurants that are convening more than 10 people at a time, they will be instructed to stop with a potential consequence of having their permit pulled."
"Now is the time to increase our diligence and [hold] each other accountable; we have to be vigilant," Stoney said.
Stoney added this is crucially important after four men tested positive in the city for COVID-19 early Wednesday morning.
Three of the four men took a trip to North Carolina earlier this month, returning on March 9th. Two of those men are in their 20s, one is in their 30s.
This comes after a Henrico woman in her 20s tested positive for the virus last week which led health officials to conduct a contact investigation; meeting with people this woman was around.
Avula said those three men were on the trip with the woman, and started showing symptoms upon their return.
"To some degree, this is what we expect the work of the health department to yield,” he added. “When we identify a case and we go and interview potential contacts and test anyone who is symptomatic we expect to find a spread to other people. In some ways, this is what the point of contact investigations is, to identify those other cases."
The fourth man who tested positive is in his 30s and had traveled to New York where he came in contact with a COVID-19 patient.
All four men have self-quarantined and were never hospitalized.
"Our epidemiologists and research team are making contact, interviewing or determining what other potential contact they had,” Avula said. “I expect that will yield other people who need to be quarantined or tested if they develop symptoms."
"To shorten the time in which we have to experience this moment, it takes each and every one,” Stoney said. “No matter what age, gender, or race in order to combat this virus."
Stoney also announced city offices are closed for the rest of the week and will likely be closed for the remainder of the month, in support of Governor Northam’s Public Health Emergency Order.
“The City of Richmond stands behind Governor Northam’s Public Health Emergency Order to limit gatherings to 10 people or under," Mayor Stoney said. "In the interest of public health and safety, the City of Richmond and it’s public safety agencies will be working in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health to ensure establishments within city limits abide by the Governor’s order.”
Stoney also announced city administrators are working on plans to better support small businesses that had to shutdown due to these coronavirus concerns along with a plan for child care facilities.
The Richmond and Henrico Department of Health also announced its first pop-up testing site for patients who may be exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
Those screenings took place at Henrico’s Dorey Park Wednesday afternoon by appointment only.
Patients who believe they are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms are asked to call (804) 205-3501 and speak with a nurse as part of the screening. If the person meets the criteria, they’ll be given an appointment time.
Avula said the hope is to create several more of these pop-up sites across the area.
Meanwhile Philip Morris USA has confirmed that a Philip Morris USA employee has contracted coronavirus.
Philip Morris USA said in a statement that the employee is self-quarantining at home.
“We develop rigorous protocols to handle suspected cases, including identifying and notifying, as quickly as possible, those who may have had contact with an affected employee,” Philip Morris said in a statement. “Those protocols worked well in this case.”
The Richmond and Henrico Department of Health did not say whether this person is one of the four cases announced Wednesday.
Hotlines within the Richmond area are open to answer citizens’ questions on the coronavirus.
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