Loudoun Reports First COVID-19 Death, a School Employee

The Loudoun County Health Department is reporting the first death of a hospitalized patient who tested positive for COVID-19.

The patient, a woman in her 70s, died of respiratory failure Wednesday night as a result of COVID-19. She was a former first grade teacher who was working as a reading tutor at two Ashburn elementary schools.

“It is with great sadness that I relay the news that Susan Rokus, a longtime teacher and champion of our local schools, passed away last night, ” School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) wrote in a Facebook post. “Her service has been so broad and expansive, serving multiple generations of Loudoun Students at schools including the old Arcola, Little River, Liberty, and Pinebrook. Last year she was honored by Little River Principal Kevin Murphy as one of the core leaders of the school when it first opened 20 years ago. A teacher to many, a tutor to some, but a friend to the entire community, Susan’s legacy will continue for generations to come.”

In an email sent the teachers and parents, Superintendent Eric Williams offered comfort and some suggestions to help students.

“The interfaith concept of Love of Neighbor, endorsed by many religious and non-religious people alike, will lead many of us to grieve her loss, even if we did not know her,” Williams wrote in an emailed message to the community. “We know that she is not a statistic, nor a number. I am not sharing her name or specific remembrances because it is my sense that she would prefer it that way, but she is someone who loved and was loved.”

He also wrote that it will be natural for children to ask questions and be concerned about their own health at this time.

“It is important to be available to speak with children about the ways adults are working to help keep them safe, reminding them of the basic actions they can take to protect themselves and others,” Williams wrote. “Finally, as caregivers, modeling both positive and healthy activities can be beneficial to helping your child through this time.

“A strength of each of our school communities is that its members support each other in our time of need,” Williams wrote. “Life’s lessons are sometimes the hardest to teach and learn, especially with young children. If your child needs to speak with a school counselor, please reach out to the School Counselor or your child’s principal.”

The woman’s close contacts were previously investigated, according to the health department, which is not providing any additional information about the woman.

On Wednesday, Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend reported that it had been two weeks since schools were closed in Loudoun—meaning that if a child had caught the illness from a school building, they would have shown symptoms by now.

“The good news is, if we find out tomorrow that someone had coronavirus and your children are healthy, they’re past the 14-day quarantine period,” Goodfriend said.

“We are saddened by the first confirmed death of a Loudoun County resident due to COVID-19. Our hearts go out to her loved ones,” Goodfriend stated in a press release announcing the death. “The health of our residents is our top priority and this represents no additional risk to the community. We ask that everyone do their part to slow the spread of the virus in our community: practice social distancing, wash your hands, and cover coughs and sneezes.”

The woman’s death was not included in the Virginia Department of Health statewide count released earlier in the day, which is updated daily with numbers reported by 5 p.m. the previous day.

According to the that count, the number of statewide COVID-19 cases grew to 460 on Wednesday, up from 391 the day before.

The 69 new positive tests included eight additional patients in Loudoun County, where the total of known cases has reached 28.

Statewide, 819 new test results were reported today, bringing the total to 6,189.

Sixty-five patients were hospitalized on Wednesday and 13 deaths had been reported.

On Thursday, the state health department also reported demographic data about the known patients. The largest percentage of cases fall in two age brackets, 50-59 and 60-69, both at 18.3 percent. Seventy-three patients are age 20-29, about 16 percent of the statewide total. Only 11 cases have been reported for patients under the age of 20. So far, more men than women have been diagnosed with the virus, 52.6 percent to 45.9 percent.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. 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.

If symptoms develop, contact your health care provider and describe the situation.

To lower the risk of transmission, the Health Department recommends:

  • Avoid non-essential travel and public gatherings, especially if you are an individual who is at increased risk for severe illness, including pregnant women, older adults and persons of any age with underlying health conditions.
  • Avoid travel to all areas where there are outbreaks of COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve, not your hands, when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are mildly sick with a fever, stay home except to get medical care.
  • Those with high risk factors and who have fever or a new or worsening cough, should consider contacting their providers earlier when they are sick. Call ahead to let them know of your symptoms.

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