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Virginia Reports State's First Death From Coronavirus; Northam Bans Gatherings of 100+

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Virginia health officials on Saturday (March 14) reported the state’s first death from the coronavirus, a man in his 70s in eastern Virginia who died of respiratory failure after acquiring the virus through an unknown source.

(From AP reports)   The Virginia Department of Health and the Peninsula Health District reported the death of the man, who had been hospitalized in James City County.  Health officials said they are reaching out to all identified contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus and giving them instructions on how to protect themselves and others.

Get the latest from the Virginia Department of Health on COVID-19

Governor Ralph Northam said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the death.  Virginia has reported that 41 people have now tested positive for the virus. Northam has declared a state of emergency, closed K-12 schools across the state for the next two weeks, restricted visitors at nursing homes and correctional facilities, and canceled large events.  Northam urged residents to avoid large gatherings, work at home if possible, and stay home if they are sick.

Read Northam's Emergency Declaration

In a press conference Sunday, Northam also announced that he was banning all public gatherings of more than 100 people statewide.  He said the ban on large gatherings does not apply to restaurants, bars and offices.  He also ordered a two-week shutdown of municipal offices in an area of southeast Virginia that has been hit by a cluster of coronavirus cases.  Eight people have tested positive for the virus there, including the man who died.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.  The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.  The outbreak has caused more than 5,800 deaths out of 156,000 cases worldwide.

Governor Northam Orders K-12 Schools Closed for Two Weeks

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Although positive tests for coronavirus have been identified in much of the state ranging from eastern and northern Virginia to the Shenandoah Valley, eastern Virginia has by far seen the most cases.  And that’s affecting court cases there.  Misdemeanor, traffic and petty offense cases in federal court have been postponed in the Eastern District of Virginia in response to the coronavirus outbreak.  The district also has suspended all non-case related events, tours and other gatherings in courthouses, including naturalization ceremonies.

Bob Leweke is WMRA's News Director and Morning Edition host.