Local health expert warns COVID-19 can still strike, even with precautions


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, Gov. Ralph Northam has pushed for virus precautions and has been seen in public wearing masks, with the exception of a Virginia Beach appearance he made without a mask in May.

Despite taking precautions, the governor’s office announced Friday Gov. Northam and First Lady Pam Northam both tested positive for COVID-19.

Although masks are effective in preventing transmission of the virus, they are not fool proof, according to Richmond and Henrico Health Director Dr. Danny Avula.

“A lot of the cloth masks that we recommend, if you are in an area for an extended period of time, there are ways those respiratory droplets can find their way in and around the mask,” Dr. Avula told 8News.

He also said social distancing is effective, but when in a room for a long period of time without a mask, there is a possibility those respiratory droplets that spread the virus can get stuck in the air.

It is also not surprising Gov. Northam, the First Lady and a staff member who works closely in the couple’s living quarters all have the virus.

“When we see a cluster of illness, these are typically happening within the household, and often that’s because people aren’t wearing masks all day, everyday in their homes and they’re sharing air space over time,” said Dr. Avula.

The Governor’s Office said Gov. Northam and the First Lady are working closely with the Virginia Department of Health and Richmond Health Department to trace close contacts.

“If somebody has symptoms, we go 48 hours prior to the symptoms. If they’re asymptomatic, we go 48 hours prior to the date they were tested,” Dr. Avula said, explaining contact tracing.

Dr. Avula also said to be cleared to come out of isolation after testing positive, at least 10 days must have passed from the onset of symptoms, all symptoms must have gone away and 24 hours must have passed without having a fever.

The Governor’s Office said Gov. Northam and the First Lady will isolate for the next 10 days and evaluate their symptoms.


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