The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Fredericksburg area has more than doubled, according to the Rappahannock Area Health District.

Local health officials are managing and monitoring seven cases: five in Stafford County and two in Spotsylvania County. The Virginia Department of Health has reported only three confirmed cases in the Fredericksburg area: two in Stafford and one in Spotsylvania.

The discrepancy can be partly attributed to delays in local numbers being added to the total state count, said a spokesperson for the local health district.

“Several district health departments have noticed a difference in the state count and local count of positive COVID-19 cases,” stated the press release from RAHD. “This difference is attributed to the communication chain from the local to state level and timing of edits to the VDH website, which is updated daily at noon.”

The statement did not identify genders, ages or other information about the four new confirmed cases of COVID-19, but stressed health officials are reaching out to close contacts of patients who might have been exposed.

People identified as contacts “will be asked to stay at home away from others for 14 days, and will be asked to monitor their symptoms. It is important for our residents to continue to follow public health guidelines on social distancing and good hygiene to lower the risk of spreading respiratory infections, including COVID-19 in our community.”

Across Virginia, confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 33 percent, from 114 on Friday to 152 Saturday.

Virginia health officials said Saturday that there were 77 cases in the northern region of the state, 42 in the eastern region, 25 in the central, six in the northwest and two in the southwest.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the state is changing testing criteria to give additional priority to medical staff who have come into contact with someone with the virus.

“They are literally our front line of defense,” Northam said, “and they need our support and our protection.”

Northam also said the state is working to get more supplies like masks and gowns, and he signed an executive order Friday night to allow hospitals and nursing homes to add more beds to deal with the pandemic.

Also Friday night, the Rappahannock–Rapidan Health District announced that a Culpeper County couple in their 70s and in the same household are confirmed to have COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The two patients described a rapid onset of symptoms, “and quickly self-isolated, which greatly limited potential contacts,” said a health district spokesman.

“It is critical that people follow the public health guidelines on isolation and quarantine,” said Dr. Wade Kartchner, RRHD director. “All community members should be following the guidelines on social distancing and good hygiene. Social distancing is one of the most effective strategies in lessening the impact of this pandemic.”

On Saturday, the Thomas Jefferson Health District confirmed Louisa County’s first positive case of COVID-19. According to the health district, the individual was tested Thursday and has been quarantined since that time.

Mary Washington Healthcare and Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center officials said there were no significant new developments at their hospitals on Saturday.

In response to a wave of public offers to help, hospital officials are preparing guidelines for how sewing circles and private individuals can help by making medical masks, said Lisa Henry, MWH marketing director.

“We’ve had so many people calling and saying they’d like to make masks and donate supplies, so we’re pulling together some guidelines on how that can happen,” she said. “We need to work out things like delivery and acceptance points and even patterns that will work best. We’ve got a nurse team of quilters who’ve been testing out different patterns to find what works best.”

Henry said that when the guidelines are finished, they’ll be released to the public so they can help.

“We want to give those who want to help a way to do that,” she said, “as we think it’s important for that to happen as we face this challenge.”

Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center wanted to thank groups that have been supporting doctors and nurses by sending food and other supplies.

“Lifepoint Church brought goodie bags to the staff, Southpoint Chick-fil-A delivered sweet tea and cookies to the Emergency Room and Papa John’s sent pizzas to the staff,” said Jael Cooper, marketing director. “We really appreciate it.”

Culpeper Star–Exponent and wire reports contributed to this story.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

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