Richmond Times-Dispatch

City reports 25 workers sick, 57 in quarantine

Situation is a ‘wake-up call for all,’ Stoney says

- BY C. SUAREZ ROJAS Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond and local health officials implored the public to remain vigilant Thursday after 25 city employees tested positive for COVID-19 amid an outbreak at the city’s election office.

Anticipati­ng that the number of positive cases among city employees could rise, Mayor Levar Stoney said an additional 57 workers — including 37 police department employees — are quarantini­ng due to direct exposure to a co-worker or someone from the public with

Vote count City Council candidate criticizes office.

the disease.

“These numbers are a wake-up call for all of us. This virus is real,” Stoney said. “It’s virulent and doesn’t recognize family ties or your COVID bubbles.”

The mayor has been in quarantine since Monday after his campaign manager tested positive. In a virtual news conference, Stoney said he will be tested Friday but feels “very well.”

The outbreak among city and election employees comes as the daily number of positive cases has been rising in recent weeks.

Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond and Henrico Health District, said at Thursday’s news conference that there are currently about 42 new cases each day in the city. With the approach of the holidays, colder weather and the flu season, he said the daily case count could continue to rise to about 50, which would rival the city’s first peak earlier this year.

The Virginia Department of Health reported

Thursday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 198,027 — an increase of 1,521 from the 196,506 reported Wednesday.

In the Richmond area, there are 22,819 cases: 7,924 in Chesterfie­ld County, 7,094 in Henrico County, 5,871 in Richmond and 1,930 in Hanover County. Also, the region has 488 deaths attributed to the virus: 242 in Henrico, 121 in Chesterfie­ld, 78 in Richmond and 47 in Hanover.

Avula said there are fewer hospitaliz­ations than earlier this year, as most new cases are showing up in young adults who are less likely to experience severe health complicati­ons than older people with pre-existing conditions.

Still, he said he’s concerned that carelessne­ss about mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and screening for symptoms is likely to lead to transmissi­on to vulnerable population­s in the coming weeks, which could stretch hospital resources thin if there’s a significan­t rise in hospitaliz­ations due to COVID-19 and the flu.

“The things we’re doing to prevent the spread of COVID are also preventing the spread of flu,” Avula said. “My concern is we’ve been about the worst country in the world at containing COVID.”

Kirk Showalter, the voter registrar for the city, announced Monday that three of her office’s employees tested positive. The first case was discovered Friday.

Avula said Thursday that there are 11 known positive cases in the registrar’s office, and that the results of some tests are still pending while 20 people remain in quarantine.

“Our best assessment is that while mask-wearing was enforced well, perhaps hand sanitation and 6-foot distancing was not enforced as well and that contribute­d to some transmissi­on,” he said.

In an email later Thursday, Avula said health officials have not identified any exposure to voters linked to the cluster of cases at the election office. Most of the affected employees worked in support roles that did not involve interactio­ns with voters, he said.

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