Virginia’s governor, wife test positive for coronavirus

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and first lady Pamela Northam have tested positive for coronavirus.

“Consistent with guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the governor and first lady will isolate for the next 10 days and evaluate their symptoms. The governor is in constant contact with his cabinet and staff and will fulfill his duties from the Executive Mansion,” the governor’s office said in a news release Friday.

A member of the governor’s official residency staff developed symptoms of the virus and tested positive.

Both the governor and his wife were notified Wednesday evening, and a nasal swabs of both on Thursday afternoon tested positive.

Northam, who is a doctor, has no symptoms, while Pamela Northam has mild symptoms.

The governor released the following statement:

As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious. The safety and health of our staff and close contacts is of utmost importance to Pam and me, and we are working closely with the Department of Health to ensure that everyone is well taken care of. We are grateful for your thoughts and support, but the best thing you can do for us — and most importantly, for your fellow Virginians — is to take this seriously.”

The two are working with the state health department and the Richmond Health Department to trace their contacts.

Those who work at the governor’s office are working remotely.

The Executive Mansion and Patrick Henry office building are closed for deep cleaning Friday.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said Northam let him know about the positive tests Thursday.

“I am certain that Ralph and Pam will have a speedy recovery, and the Fairfax Family will keep them in our prayers. My thoughts are also with all of the Governor’s staff and friends,” Fairfax said.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

The governor found out about the staffer with COVID-19 just a day after he had visited George Mason University, where he unveiled a plan to save colleges $300 million by refinancing bonds for capital construction.

A GMU spokesperson said the school was informed about the positive results Friday, and that the governor was on campus for a short amount of time earlier this week.

He also wore a mask during his entire visit, and “came into close contact with a very small group of individuals,” the spokesperson said. People who were in contact with Northam will be alerted directly.

Northam is among four governors around the country who have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, but one of the others turned out to be a false positive.

Three other governors also have tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier this week, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who has steadfastly refused to require residents to wear masks, announced he’d tested positive. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt in July became the first governor to announce he’d tested positive. He recovered and returned to work less than two weeks later.

In August, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that a rapid test was positive. But a short time later, DeWine said a more sensitive test was negative.

Northam’s announcement comes on the same day as a planned rally by President Donald Trump in Newport News, an event the governor’s staff has asked to be canceled, rescheduled or scaled down because of concerns about the virus.

The rally is expected to draw 4,000 people, which would violate Northam’s executive order generally banning gatherings of more than 250 people. The Trump campaign has routinely flouted public health guidelines intended to halt the spread of COVID-19 with its events.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

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