COVID-19 outbreak: Mayor, others quarantine

George Copeland Jr. | 11/12/2020, 6 p.m.
A rash of new COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and quarantines have emerged following the election, underlying the continuing threat of the …

A rash of new COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and quarantines have emerged following the election, underlying the continuing threat of the virus locally, statewide and across the nation.

Mayor Levar M. Stoney announced Monday on a social media post that he and his staff have gone into quarantine after a member of his campaign team tested positive for COVID-19.

The campaign staffer, he tweeted, had interacted with the staff at the Richmond Voter Registrar’s office, where city Registrar Kirk Showalter announced earlier Monday that three employees had tested positive for COVID-19 last week after Election Day.

City health officials said Wednesday that number is now nine, with three to five other people in the registrar’s office experiencing symptoms and getting tested for the virus.

Also impacted is former mayoral candidate Alexsis E. Rodgers, who also stated on social media that she would be quarantining “after being in the registrar’s office and near individuals who have since tested positive.”

And three officers with the Richmond Police Department also are in quarantine awaiting results of their COVID-19 tests after possible exposure from interacting with staff at the registrar’s office.

Ms. Showalter said that 90 percent of her staff is now under quarantine until Nov. 17, with only four out of 40 workers reporting to the office this week.

She said the Laburnum Avenue building was deep cleaned on Nov. 6 and was cleaned again this week.

City and state health officials are working with the office to conduct contact tracing, and it does not appear that the public is at risk.

Ms. Showalter said that because of her office’s reduced capacity, it was uncertain whether she would be able to finish certifying hundreds of provisional ballots ahead of Tuesday’s reporting deadline to the state Department of Elections.

She said her office had informed state election officials of the situation.

“We will have all figures in before midnight online except the provisional ballots,” Ms. Showalter said Tuesday in an email. “I am hoping to finish the research of the provisional ballots (Wednesday) for the board to review on Thursday.”

Mayor Stoney said in his tweets that he and his staff are in quarantine following guidance from the Richmond Health District and City of Richmond employee protocol.

“My staff & I are well prepared to serve the residents of Richmond from home. It’s the safe, responsible thing to do while (Richmond City Health District) traces possible exposures stemming from the Registrar’s Office. This should serve as a sobering reminder that the pandemic is still very real,” the mayor wrote.

“Just because it’s not in the headlines doesn’t mean it’s no longer a threat. Please, monitor yourself for symptoms and take advantage of the resources offered by our Health District.”

Similarly, the Henrico County Voter Registration and Elections Office and the Henrico Department of Public Works also reported an outbreak of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Seven employees have tested positive, one is awaiting test results and officials have begun contact tracing and rapid testing.

Another 10 cases were reported at seven Henrico County schools since last week. And Chesterfield County also is facing three more COVID-19-related deaths at Tyler’s Retreat at Iron Bridge, for a total of 19 deaths at the retirement community.

The state Health Department reported on Wednesday a cumulative total of 5,840 cases and 78 deaths in Richmond; 7,043 cases and 243 deaths in Henrico County; and 7,849 cases and 120 deaths in Chesterfield County.

In a Tuesday media briefing, Gov. Ralph S. Northam and other state officials expressed concern over the continuing spread of the coronavirus throughout the state, where Southwest Virginia is now being hit particularly hard with a positivity rate of 9 percent.

State figures posted Wednesday show 196,506 positive cases in Virginia, 13,273 hospitalizations and 3,741 deaths reported by the Virginia Department of Health.

“You should take precautions around anyone who does not live in your own house,” Gov. Northam said. “Yes, even if they are your family.”

State officials said antigen tests are continuing to be distributed statewide, along with 700,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and 850,000 masks that have been circulated throughout Virginia so far.

The state also has signed contracts with three companies to increase the amount of daily testing by 7,000.

“Virginians, you have done an exceptional job over the past eight months in responding to this crisis,” Gov. Northam said. “And I know you’re tired. I’m tired. The new normal is still ahead of us.”