As the number of cases involving Rappahannock Area Health District workers with COVID-19 continues to expand, offices in Fredericksburg and Stafford County have closed temporarily for deep cleaning.

The local health district, which operates health departments in the city and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford, confirmed Monday that one of its nurses had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. As of Tuesday, a second staff member also had tested positive, classifying the incident as an outbreak. The state health department defines an outbreak as at least two cases, outside a household, that involve the same person, place or time.

In addition, the number of health district workers who may have been exposed increased from 13 to 18 between Monday and Tuesday. That brings to 20 the number of RAHD employees who are quarantining at home, said district spokesperson Allison Balmes–John.

Some additional test results were expected late Tuesday night, she said.

The nurse with the first confirmed case was not assigned to the Fredericksburg Health Department at 608 Jackson St., but city officials decided to close the building, which also houses Social Services offices, for deep cleaning “out of an abundance of caution,” said Sonja Cantu, city spokesperson. The city plans to reopen the offices on Friday.

The Stafford Health Department also was closed Monday and Tuesday for cleaning, Balmes–John said. The other health departments in the health district have remained open.

When COVID-19 cases started to appear in the Fredericksburg area in March, the local health district was charged with monitoring and investigating the cases, just as workers in the state’s other 34 other health districts do.

The local district staff pulled some of its nurses and other technicians out of clinical settings to help with contact tracing—which involves identifying, and telephoning, all those who have been close enough to an infected person to contract the virus.

As the caseload grew, so did the staff involved. As of Tuesday, there were 1,033 cases in the local health district, and the team of contract tracers had grown from five to 30, according to local health officials.

In the midst of the pandemic, the district has tried to maintain its core services, such as for maternity patients, family planning and those with sexually transmitted infections. But because so many staff members will be under quarantine—and out of commission through the end of the month—the health district has canceled its in-person clinics through May 28.

Local health departments will offer some services through telemedicine or telephone. Health district staff also will reach out to those who may have been exposed to the employees who tested positive. Any patient with concerns can call 540/877-4797 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

In addition, those who need help from Fredericksburg Social Services can contact the department at 540/372-1032 or email their social worker.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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