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Navy reports ‘presumptive positive’ coronavirus test for civilian employee in Virginia

A civilian employee of the Navy at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s Falls Church campus has tested “presumptive positive” for the potentially deadly coronavirus, the Pentagon told Navy Times on Tuesday.

The employee was tested on Monday and became the first positive case of a Navy civilian worker in Virginia, officials said.

The patient did not travel recently out of the United States, officials added.

BUMED’s campus will remain open while contractors sterilize the employee’s work station. Other employees are being encouraged to take “liberal leave” and “tele-work," if possible.

In a prepared statement, BUMED officials indicated that the unnamed patient is being treated at an unidentified hospital in Northern Virginia under care prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A final confirmation on the employee’s test is pending from the CDC and BUMED is in contact with state and federal health authorities to protect both the force and the general population from infection.

“Personnel that the individual immediately identified having close contact with have been notified and are in self-isolation at their residence,” according to the statement.

Military health workers are completing a contact investigation to determine whether any other uniformed or civilian personnel have been in close contact with the patient. If so, BUMED might take additional precautionary measures, officials said.

BUMED spokesman Cmdr. Denver L. Applehans told Navy Times that so far the contact investigation had identified roughly 30 individuals who worked with or in the general area of the patient or who otherwise had come into close contact with the person.

“We have asked these people to remain at their residences to self-monitor,” he said.

On Saturday morning, U.S. European Command announced that a U.S. Navy sailor in Italy had tested positive for the newest strain of coronavirus.

Later that evening, a Pentagon alert revealed that a Marine in Virginia also had contracted the virus, the first known service member with COVID-19 in the continental United States.

He’s being treated at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. He recently returned from an unspecified destination overseas where he was on official business, officials said.

With the latest BUMED case, the total number of patients believed to have tested positive for COVID-19 in Virginia has risen to eight, according to the Associated Press.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that two of the exposures involved a retired sailor and his wife. They are the first coronavirus cases in the Hampton Roads region.

A California Air National Guard helicopter delivering virus testing kits hovers over the Grand Princess cruise ship Thursday off the California coast. (Michele Smith via AP)
A California Air National Guard helicopter delivering virus testing kits hovers over the Grand Princess cruise ship Thursday off the California coast. (Michele Smith via AP)

Using guidance from the CDC, Navy officials are reminding sailors that they might come into contact with people who are infected with the novel strain of coronavirus but have not begun exhibiting symptoms. They want personnel to take preventive actions to help prevent the spread of the respiratory illness, including:

1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

2. Stay home, or follow your local sick call procedure, when you are sick.

3. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

5. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

This is a breaking story and Navy Times will continue updating it.

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