WINCHESTER — Two people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the northern Shenandoah Valley as of Sunday evening.

The first diagnosis occurred Friday night and involved a man in his 60s who was visiting the area, according to Dr. Colin Greene, Lord Fairfax Health District director. Greene wouldn't say where the man was hospitalized. Greene was uncertain of the man's condition, "but he certainly has got the attention of every expert that's available," he said.

The second person is a woman in her 30s who lives in the Lord Fairfax Health District, which encompasses Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. Her positive test came back this weekend, according to Greene. He said she has displayed mild symptoms and has been asked to self-quarantine.

Citing medical privacy laws, Greene wouldn't identify either of the patients. People who came in contact with them who are believed to be at risk will be asked to self-quarantine. Greene said the woman may have come in contact with people from four local communities.

The virus, for which there is no vaccine, was first discovered in China in December and declared a global pandemic on March 11. Through Sunday afternoon, it had killed 14,376 worldwide and infected 329,300, according to the John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center website. In the U.S., there were 322 deaths as of Sunday morning, according to the New York Times. In Virginia, three people have died and 219 have been diagnosed, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

Due to a shortage of test kits — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website on Sunday said 66,371 people have been tested in the U.S. — there are far more people infected than diagnosed. In Virginia, a state of 8.5 million people, just 3,317 have been tested, according to the VDH.

Greene said there are almost certainly many more infected people locally who haven't been diagnosed. "They'll continue to turn up as the days go by," he said.

To decrease the risk, Greene said people should stay inside other than for essential trips or exercise. When outside, people should maintain a six-foot distance from other people when feasible. The goal is to avoid breathing in respiratory droplets.

Greene emphasized people can be contaminated without being coughed on. Breathing the air of someone nearby for more than a brief time or touching a surface of someone who has recently touched it and is infected and then touching your face can cause infection. Frequent washing with soap and hot water or hand sanitizer is recommended.

Greene said hospitals have to be careful about treating COVID-19 patients to avoid it spreading to medical personnel. With no federal plan on how to deal with hospitals being overwhelmed with patients as the pandemic grows, some communities are using athletic fields or gyms as field hospitals. In New Haven, Connecticut, the Payne Whitney Gymnasium at Yale University has been converted into a makeshift hospital for virus patients. In King County, Washington, a state where at least 94 people have died, a 200-bed hospital has been created on a soccer field.

Locally, Greene said here has been discussion of using empty buildings to shelter homeless people who have mild symptoms and have nowhere to self-quarantine. Any homeless person with serious symptoms would be hospitalized.

Greene, a 30-year Army veteran who served in the Iraq War, said if local hospitals are overwhelmed, military-style field hospitals with tents could be created.

"None of that's being actively discussed, to my knowledge, right now," he said. "But nothing would be off the table. We're Americans. We can be innovative."

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(14) comments

TerriH

Rumors have circulated in the area for a week. People at Winchester Regional leaked it. She works at a local automotive business. The company has not notified anyone and is taking no steps to close or clean the place of business.

JakeRich

Is this a scoop that only the Winchester Star knows? The Virginia Department of Health is not reporting it, nor is Johns Hopkins, both of whom update daily or more frequently. Still no cases reported in our area by either. So, either the health experts are wrong, or the Star is. I know who I'm betting on.

Curly 2

Stupidity is coming to bear

Yet Valley Health Hospitals are allowing surgeons to classify non emergency cases as emergencies, that way they can still operate. This way they can still bill.and make money. And guess what, Valley Health gets a cut of it. Greed is going to get our providers sick. Then who is going to take care of the rest of us?

paulmiller

This thread is proof that crisis really does bring out the worst in some people.

redsox

Definitely...and it's sad.

Wahoo

I understand the patients are notifying people they came into contact with, assisted by the Health Department. Hopefully, all of those people have been following the guidelines for two weeks so the possibility of further spread is minimal, even if it is inevitable as some believe. The general public does not need to know, because it’s harder to recover whe. you’re being harassed by strangers wanting to know what you’ve been doing every moment for the last 2 weeks.

Tomsorchard

Outrageous!

The privacy laws have gone so to the left that they now hinder public safety.

Who are they?

Where were they?

Did they stay in while waiting for results?

One might believe we just read a potential civil case on public endangerment.

The patients only have to give permission in order to release their names and their Specific points of travel.

Bryan.the.Nuri

I'm so sorry, but you know are opposed to privacy laws?

Violet

Can we get more specifics of where in the northern Shenandoah Valley these two cases are?

Violet

The man in his 60s who was 'visiting the area' who should not have been out visiting has now brought this to our area. Stay home people!!!

Joe Crane

Let's see, you can't release her name due to medical privacy, but then officials are asking anyone who has come in contact with her to self-quarantine. How do we know if we've come in contact with her if you don't release her name?

Bryan.the.Nuri

It would mean that the people who have had contact with them would know, as the family would notify, not the hospital. Do you not get how people spread information?

TerriH

The company where she works has done nothing. It’s a public business in Winchester.

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