COVID-19 reaches the coalfields

March 22, 2020

Virginia health department officials have now confirmed three cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the coalfield region.

Saturday, the LENOWISCO Health District confirmed that a man and woman in their 50s have tested positive for the virus in Lee County.

“The second case is a household contact of the first,” according to a press release. “They have had no contacts with community since prior to the onset of symptoms in the first case, and have maintained strict isolation, following public health guidance, since symptom onset. No at-risk community contacts have occurred.”

Later Saturday, the health department reported that the Cumberland Plateau Health District “is investigating potential contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a resident of the Henrico Health District who also spent time in the Cumberland Plateau Health District.”

The Cumberland Plateau office serves Dickenson, Russell, Tazewell and Buchanan counties. The Henrico district is in the Richmond area.

“The patient is a female in her 20s,” the department reported. “She is self-isolating.”

“To protect privacy, VDH does not disclose details of individual cases or investigations,” said Dr. Sue Cantrell, director of the Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts.

Public health staff are investigating any potential exposures, identifying potential contacts, assessing their risk of exposure and recommending appropriate public health and medical measures, as needed,” she said.

Cantrell advises residents to avoid close contact, keeping at least six feet away from others, wash hands with soap and water “well and often” and disinfect surfaces frequently.

People should avoid social gatherings of more than 10 individuals. If you are 65 years or older, or if you have a serious chronic medical condition (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, immune compromise, at any age), you should stay at home.

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

For general questions about COVID-19, community members may call the 877-ASK-VDH3 Hotline. For more information, visit and