When Caroline County Social Services offices shut down Monday because a worker tested positive for COVID-19, employees in other localities stepped in to make sure Caroline residents could apply for vital services such as food assistance.
Departments in King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties volunteered to help with processing applications for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, and issuing the associated cards, said Wendy Sneed, director of Caroline County Social Services.
“We are immensely grateful to our neighboring localities for helping us meeting client needs,” Sneed said, adding she couldn’t give specifics of how the employee is doing, except to say that “she is progressing well.”
The sickened social services worker is one of two people in Caroline County—and among 93 people in the Rappahannock Area Health District—with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Stafford County continues to be a hot spot with 46 cases, followed by Spotsylvania County with 27, and King George County and Fredericksburg with nine each.
Two Spotsylvania men have died from the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The help Caroline’s social services department has received from workers in other counties is one example of how individuals, groups and agencies in the Fredericksburg area have come together in a time of crisis. Already, people have taken up needle and thread to make thousands of masks for health care workers and first responders as other businesses and individuals donated whatever facial coverings they had on hand.
That’s been vital for departments such as the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office, which, like other agencies, doesn’t have enough professional-grade respiratory masks for its workers out on the streets.
“We have had a hard time ordering extra [personal protective equipment] due to a high demand, but have been fortunate to receive donations from local businesses, churches and private citizens,” said Capt. Liz Scott.
In addition, when Mary Washington Healthcare recently was low on supplies, “friends at Riverside [Health System] and Sentara [Healthcare] pitched in and gave us test kits so we could test folks here,” Dr. Michael McDermott, CEO, said at last week’s virtual town hall. “There’s a tremendous sense of cooperation going on as we share the limited resources we have available through the commonwealth so we can treat everyone the best way possible.”
Locally, officials in Fredericksburg, Caroline, King George and Stafford signed an emergency agreement last week so the localities could share the needed personnel, equipment and supplies in the midst of the pandemic. Assistance offered by social workers seems to be the first example of the agreement’s purpose.
“Caroline County and the region have the peace of mind of knowing that other localities will pitch in to help out all they can in an hour of need,” said Alan Partin, deputy county administrator in Caroline.
Meanwhile, there continues to be discrepancy between case numbers reported by the local health district and the Virginia Department of Health, which updates its website daily. As of Tuesday, the website reported 3,333 confirmed cases and 63 deaths statewide. It also listed the Rappahannock Area Health District with 100 cases, compared to the local reports of 93.
RAHD spokesperson Allison Balmes John said local notifications of confirmed cases may have been submitted to the state before workers completed patient interviews, and that’s probably the reason for the discrepancy. Typically, the numbers on the state website are lower, not higher, than what the RAHD reports to the media each morning.
She also said residents should keep in mind that the daily count includes confirmed cases only; the actual number of sick people probably is much higher.
“Virginia has been determined to have widespread community transmission,” she said, “and there are likely to be people in the community who have COVID-19 but do not know it.”
Another interesting look at numbers comes from a Tuesday update by Dr. Christopher Newman, chief medical officer of Mary Washington Healthcare. He reported that the health care system has treated 59 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Thirteen patients remain hospitalized, with six in intensive care. Another 33 people are presumed to have COVID-19, Newman said, and seven of them are in intensive care.
Mary Washington Hospital and Stafford Hospital have discharged 13 recovered patients, and the critical care team at MWH has been able to take four recovered people off ventilators, which he considered a “successful milestone in our fight against this virus.”