RICHMOND — Virginia health officials on Saturday reported the state’s first death from the coronavirus, a man in his 70s who died of respiratory failure after acquiring the virus through an unknown source.
In a news release, the Virginia Department of Health and the Peninsula Health District reported the death of the man, who had been hospitalized.
“On behalf of the entire commonwealth, we express our deepest sympathy for the family and loved ones of the patient who died, as well as the families of everyone who has been affected by this outbreak,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver.
Health officials did not say where the man lived. They said they are reaching out to all identified contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus and giving them instructions on how to protect themselves and others.
Gov. Ralph Northam said he was “deeply saddened” to learn that a Virginia resident has died from the virus.
Virginia has reported 41 people have tested positive for the virus so far. Northam has declared a state of emergency, closed K-12 schools across the state for the next two weeks, restricted visitors at nursing homes and correctional facilities and canceled large events.
“This is a public health crisis — we must all treat it as such,” Northam said in a news release.
He urged residents to avoid large gatherings, work at home if possible and stay home if they are sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
The outbreak has caused more than 5,600 deaths out of 149,000 cases worldwide.