Northam closes Virginia schools amid coronavirus outbreak

The Associated Press

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, front, gestures during a news conference as House speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, right, and Secretary of Public safety Brian Moran, left, look on at the Capitol March 12 in Richmond.

Virginia on Saturday reported the state's first death from COVID-19.

The person who died was a man in his 70s who had been hospitalized and previously tested positive for COVID-19, state officials said. The death was in the Peninsula Health District, which covers Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County.

The patient had acquired COVID-19 through an unknown source. The cause of death was respiratory failure as a result of COVID-19, the officials said.

“On behalf of the entire Commonwealth, we express our deepest sympathy for the family and loved ones of the patient who died, as well as the families of everyone who has been affected by this outbreak,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver. “The health of our residents and the community is our top priority, and we will continue working together to care for the patients, protect the safety of health care workers, and protect the people in our Commonwealth.”

This case was recorded by the Virginia Department of Health when it was first identified.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam released the following statement Saturday:

“Pam and I were deeply saddened to learn that a Virginian has died from COVID-19, and we grieve for everyone this virus has touched around the world.

“The health of Virginians and our communities is my most important priority right now. As a Commonwealth, we have taken major, critical steps to stop the spread of COVID- 19. I have declared a state of emergency, closed K-12 schools across the state, restricted visitors at nursing homes and correctional facilities, limited state employee travel, and canceled large events."

“This is a public health crisis — we must all treat it as such," Northam said in the statement. “Again, I urge Virginians: take this seriously. Take basic health precautions, avoid large gatherings, telework if possible, and stay home if you are sick. That will stop the virus from spreading.

“It is all of our responsibility, yours and mine, to keep each other safe and healthy. You deserve to know next steps. I will meet with local officials on the Peninsula tomorrow, and we will speak to the community at 12:00 p.m. about additional measures we are taking to combat COVID-19.”

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