The Spotsylvania County man who this week became the first person in the Fredericksburg area who is known to have died from COVID-19 tried repeatedly to get tested for the virus, according to his daughters.
“My father did everything he was supposed to do,” Kermora Russell said Wednesday. “What irritates me the most is he didn’t qualify for this test until he died, and at that point it was too late. It’s like no one listened to us.”
Christopher Hall, a 63-year-old Army veteran who retired after more than 20 years in the military, died on Sunday, the first confirmed COVID-19 death in the Fredericksburg area. However, his family didn’t find out until Tuesday that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Russell and her sister, Kristal Hall, said they took their father to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center three times last week because his symptoms included shortness of breath and a dry cough. In addition, he had asthma and had traveled to New York two weeks earlier to look after the home of his mother, who was hospitalized.
They said their father left the hospital Wednesday because he was disgruntled with the treatment and returned on Thursday. Then, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, given a shot of antibiotics, sent home and told to return if symptoms worsened.
By Sunday, his breathing was shallow and he’d developed severe diarrhea, Kristal Hall said. He didn’t want to go back to the hospital, but family members insisted. They got him situated at the emergency room and left, because visitors are not allowed in the building.
“That was the last time we saw my dad alive,” Kristal Hall said.
As the daughters understood the situation, a Spotsylvania Regional doctor wanted to test Hall for COVID-19 earlier in the week, but was told the patient didn’t meet the Centers for Disease Control’s criteria.
“Currently, the CDC advises that clinicians should determine whether to order a test based on specific criteria,” said Jael Cooper, marketing director at Spotsylvania Regional. “COVID-19 tests are not intended to be an assessment of your risk, but rather to confirm cases in symptomatic patients.”
She couldn’t discuss specifics of the case, but stated that “a positive test does not change the course of the illness. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no treatment for COVID-19.”
Officials with the local health district and Spotsylvania County extended their condolences to the family of Hall, who is survived by his wife, two daughters and four grandchildren. Hall had a third daughter, who died in 2008.
The Army veteran, who lived near Chancellor High School, enjoyed playing pool, his daughters said.
“He had a smile that would brighten any room,” Russell said. “He was a proud veteran.”
As of Wednesday, there were 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the local health district, with 26 of them in Stafford County. Spotsylvania has 12 cases, followed by King George County with five and Fredericksburg with two. Caroline County did not have any confirmed cases as of Wednesday.
Hall’s death was not included in Wednesday’s tally from the Virginia Department of Health, which showed the statewide death toll from COVID-19 at 34 deaths.
Also on Wednesday, a woman in her 80s with chronic medical conditions became the first COVID-19 death in the Rappahannock–Rapidan Health District, which has reported 19 cases of the virus. There are seven in Fauquier County, five in Culpeper County, four in Orange County and three in Madison County, according to the Virginia Department of Health website.
Meanwhile, projections show that virus cases in the Fredericksburg area may not reach their peak until mid-May and likely will persist into June, according to a Wednesday update from Dr. Christopher Newman, chief medical officer at Mary Washington Healthcare.
“We are only at the beginning of the virus in Virginia,” he stated.
A model by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says the same—that even though U.S. cases are expected to peak in two weeks, many states will reach their highest numbers well after that.
According to the model, Virginia’s peak is expected by May 17. That’s the time when the most health care workers will be needed to care for patients, and there will be the most demand for hospital beds, ventilators and other resources.