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Hospital employee tests positive for COVID-19 / March 24, 2020
An employee of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The employee, a member of the medical staff at Sentara HRH, is self-isolating at home and is not a patient at the hospital.

Faith O'Neil, marketing consultant and spokesperson for the hospital, issued a statement Tuesday confirming the case, which becomes Halifax County's first known outbreak of the coronavirus.

The hospital statement stressed that Sentara and the health department are working to establish possible contacts that others may have had with the infected employee.

"To ensure the safety of our employees and the community, we are working proactively with the Virginia Department of Health to communicate with any persons who may have had contact with the provider so appropriate action can be taken. We are assessing potential exposures to our staff and are taking the appropriate precautions to test if necessary," the hospital stated.

"We are doing all we can to prevent further spread by using best practices and protective equipment to keep our employees, physicians and the community safe. We are unable to provide additional specifics due to federal privacy laws."

On Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health reported that 290 people now have COVID-19 in the state. The virus has caused seven deaths in Virginia, although the VDH tracking website currently lists the number of deaths at six.

The updated reporting by VDH also confirms that Mecklenburg County now has two cases of COVID-19. On Monday, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill said it has admitted a patient with the coronavirus for in-hospital treatment. The first case in Mecklenburg surfaced Friday, involving a man in his 50s who is believed to have contracted the disease from contacts outside the area.

In the statement announcing that one of its employees has tested positive for the coronavirus, Sentara Halifax Regional acknowledged that "We understand that this news is unsettling. It is also an opportunity to take appropriate personal measures to prevent further spread.

"We are asking the communities we serve to observe the latest guidance from the CDC and the Commonwealth of Virginia to stay at home if possible, maintain social distancing and monitor your health daily.

"Sentara has a system task force led by senior clinicians and executives monitoring this rapidly evolving issue every day. They are providing the latest CDC guidance to our clinical teams and communities. We are following our infection prevention protocols to ensure everyone’s safety.

"We are grateful for our team members' commitment and personal courage as they provide care to those infected by COVID-19. We are prepared to treat all patients who need care for COVID-19. If you don’t feel well and feel the need for care, please review the following criteria from the CDC and start the process with a call to your health care provider."

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