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PEARISBURG, Va. — Two positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus were discovered in Giles County over the weekend, but county officials reassured its citizens Monday that the community does not expect to be overwhelmed by the virus.

“Remember ... it is not unexpected. Both patients are recovering and home and we will have additional cases,” said Giles County Administrator Chris McKlarney, who was concerned about curbing any potential local panic as a result of the announcement.

“However, for perspective, if Giles County suffered with the same infection rate as New York City, with 8.6 million people and 122,000 cases — which is more than 10 times the rate of infection in the U.S. overall — we would see less than 250 cases,” McKlarney said.

McKlarney said that number would tax the local health care system, but based on hospitalization rates in Virginia, this would result in less than 40 people hospitalized locally.

“Which our system can handle,” McKlarney noted.

No additional cases had been reported in Giles County by Monday evening. There were, however, three county employees who were potentially exposed on Monday, all three of whom were quarantined as a precautionary measure.

Two of the employees worked in the County Administration office. 

“Neither of these employees are displaying any symptoms and the exposure took place over the weekend, which means they have not exposed anyone else in the building. We are awaiting testing on the original case that potentially exposed these individuals and are just taking precautions,” McKlarney said. 

The third potentially-exposed employee was categorized as working in an essential position.

“Given the essential nature of their position, we have utilized the testing facility in Montgomery County and the employee is quarantined pending the results,” said McKlarney, emphasizing that the employee has no symptoms and the quarantine is being conducted solely out of caution.

The county administrator debunked social media rumors that Giles County had closed its facilities.

“The information has been confused with the aforementioned quarantines, and the closure of the Montgomery County Government Center on Friday,” he said. 

On Sunday, officials from the New River Health District reported the two cases, which are the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in Giles County since the pandemic began.

Both patients are self-isolating at home, New River officials said. Health department staff are conducting a contact investigation to identify those who had contact with the patients, assess their risk of potential exposure and provide medical and public health measures to protect individuals and the community.

In order to protect the privacy of the individuals, no other information was disclosed.

“Now that we are almost a month into this public health emergency, COVID-19 has spread to every health district, and nearly every corner of Virginia,” said Noelle Bissell, M.D., director of the New River Health District.

“Each one of us must do everything we can to limit the further spread of illness. And know the most effective way to do this is to stay home as much as possible, and practice effective individual precautions, especially for hygiene and distance. That’s how you stay well, and how you protect those around you today and those you will be with tomorrow.”

Due to the extent of the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health is recommending that all first responders wear Personal Protective Equipment with every contact with the public.

“We realize the inconvenience of this and the potential panic that this will cause among residents, however, the safety of our personnel has to take priority,” Bissell said.

Currently 2,878 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in Virginia. This is up from 2,637 on Sunday. As of Monday evening 24,521 people had been tested in the state, up from 23,671 on Sunday. There have been 54 COVID-19 related deaths in the Commonwealth, an increase of three since Friday.

— Contact George Thwaites at gthwaites@bdtonline.com

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