RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam have tested positive for COVID-19, the governor’s office announced on Friday.
According to a statement from Northam’s office, the governor is asymptomatic at this time and the first lady has mild symptoms. They both will follow guidelines from the state health department and isolate for the next 10 days while evaluating their symptoms.
The administration added that the governor and first lady are both in “good spirits” and that Gov. Northam is staying in touch with his cabinet and staff and plans to “fulfill his duties from the Executive Mansion.”
The governor and first lady were alerted Wednesday that an Executive Mansion staff member who works closely within their living quarters had tested positive for the virus after developing symptoms. The couple “received PCR nasal swab tests” on Thursday afternoon and both tests came back positive.
Northam, a pediatric neurologist, has mandated that masks be worn inside public spaces and has stressed for Virginians to take the virus seriously. He reiterated those calls Friday.
“As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious. The safety and health of our staff and close contacts is of utmost importance to Pam and me, and we are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that everyone is well taken care of,” Northam said in a statement. “We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us—and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians—is to take this seriously.”
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a gubernatorial candidate and second in line for the governorship, issued a statement after the news was shared.
“Governor Northam informed me yesterday that he and the First Lady tested positive for COVID-19,” Fairfax said in the statement. “I am certain that Ralph and Pam will have a speedy recovery, and the Fairfax Family will keep them in our prayers. My thoughts are also with all of the Governor’s staff and friends.”
Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond), a Democrat who is also running for governor, told 8News’ Jackie Defusco on Friday that “It’s a reminder of just how serious this disease is. It’s not going away and even with the best precautions we don’t know a lot about it.”
Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe wished the Northams a swift recovery on Twitter. “We are all in this together in fighting this unprecedented pandemic,” he wrote. While he has not yet announced any decision, McAuliffe has taken steps towards a potential run for governor in 2021.
The governor made two announcements, including one at George Mason University, and the first lady made five appearances as part of a “Back to School” tour on Tuesday, according to a public schedule released Monday by Northam’s office.
Gov. Northam, who typically only takes off his mask during public appearances to speak, wore a mask while speaking at the university. While making her own stops across the commonwealth, the first lady has been seen following mask-wearing guidelines.
While the governor and first lady tested positive on Thursday, it is not clear when they were exposed to the virus. Last week, Gov. Northam went to vote early at the new Richmond general registrar’s office and the first lady went to a “Back to School” event near the nation’s capital with Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and an event in Richmond with Mayor Levar Stoney the next day.
Other Virginia senators addressed the news as well, with Republicans and Democrats expressing their thoughts on the Northams and concerns over the virus.
“The great thing about the Senate of Virginia is we love and care for each other. We love and care for the governor. We want them and we are praying for them to have a speedy recovery,” Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford) told Defusco.
“I was very sorry to hear that the governor and the First Lady Pam tested positive,” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax). “It can happen to anyone.”
Northam, who is now the third governor in the U.S. to contract the virus, is among a handful of notable elected officials in Virginia to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Del. Delores L. McQuinn (D-Richmond) was infected in April and Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) began to feel mild symptoms and tested positive for the virus in August. Del. Thomas C. Wright Jr. (R-Lunenburg) tested positive a week after the Virginia House met in-person on Aug. 18.
In a statement Tuesday, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) called out Wright for “a lack of transparency” for not informing the chamber.
“According to reporting, Delegate Wright’s Office notified members of his church of the Delegate’s positive test, yet no notification to this moment has been given to my office or Clerk Denslow,” Filler-Corn said. “While he thought members of his community should be informed of his positive test, his colleagues in the House were not given the same courtesy by the Delegate nor the House Republican Caucus.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and his wife tested positive for antibodies, which does not confirm that the senator had the virus, in late May.