For the second day in a row, the Rappahannock Area Health District has reported the death of a Spotsylvania County man in his 70s due to COVID-19.

Because no lab test was done, the fatality is listed as a probable death from the novel coronavirus. It’s the first one listed as such in the local health district, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford.

The Virginia Department of Health has reported 50 probable deaths in its 1,208 fatalities statewide, as of Monday.

The Spotsylvania resident whose death was reported Monday represents the 16th person in the local health district to die from COVID-19. His case was not related to another Spotsylvania resident, also a white man in his 70s, whose death was reported Sunday, said Allison Balmes–John, spokesperson for the local district.

The two deaths were not part of any outbreak, she said, nor did they occur at a long-term care facility. To date, there have been no fatalities from COVID-19 in the local health district’s 21 nursing homes and skilled-care facilities.

The local district listed the most recent death as a probable case because it met the definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being documented as such, Balmes–John said. The patient had clinical symptoms of the virus and lived in an area where there’s ongoing transmission of the disease. His death certificate lists that COVID-19 was a cause or contributing factor in his death, she said.

Earlier this month, King George County officials asked Dr. Donald Stern, acting director of the local health district, if the state attributes a person’s death to the virus if the individual had numerous underlying conditions or a compromised immune system because of cancer treatment.

“Why isn’t it differentiated from dying with COVID and dying from COVID?” asked Supervisor Jeff Bueche, who wondered if the death certificate could state that the person had tested positive for the virus but that “it wasn’t necessarily the cause of death.”

Stern said other states had been collecting data about underlying conditions, but Virginia hadn’t. He said the staff, which is already busy tracking cases and trying to contain the spread, would have to look at a person’s medical background to see how the other factors contributed to the death.

“They have a positive test, they die of COVID-19, it’s attributed to COVID-19,” Stern said.

At other sessions with elected officials, Stern has stressed that the local death rate from COVID-19 is less than 2 percent.

“Of course, we wish there’d be no more deaths, but 98 percent of those who test positive recover from the disease,” Stern recently told members of the Fredericksburg City Council.

An update on the status of COVID-19 in the community will be the subject of a virtual town hall from 7–8 p.m. Thursday. The event will be hosted by Mary Washington Healthcare and can be accessed on its Facebook page.

As of Monday, there were 1,249 cases of COVID-19 in the local health district, out of 8,614 tests. There were 599 cases in Stafford; 422 in Spotsylvania; 123 in Fredericksburg; 56 in King George; and 49 in Caroline.

Elsewhere in the region, there were 614 cases in Culpeper County; 285 in Fauquier County; 81 in Orange County; and 50 in Westmoreland County.

Virginia reported 37,727 cases and 1,208 deaths associated with COVID-19.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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