Three hospitalized women in their 80s died of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Virginia Department of Health said Sunday.
The women were from Williamsburg, James City County and Newport News.
Two previously tested positive for COVID-19, one was a “newly positive” case.
Health officials said one was a resident of a long-term care facility.
The three patients acquired COVID-19 through an unknown source.
The cause of death was respiratory failure because of the virus.
Two of the cases were included in the statewide COVID-19 positive case count Sunday on the VDH website.
The third patient was a new case and not included. None of the three deaths was in the VDH website death total Sunday.
That makes the state’s coronavirus death toll at six – five from the Peninsula and one from Fairfax County.
VDH listed 219 positive cases of coronavirus in the state as of Sunday with 32 hospitalizations.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce three additional victims of COVID-19. We at VDH express our condolences to those families,” said Peninsula Acting Health Director Dr. Steve Julian. “Increased public cooperation with the publicized guidelines that lessen the spread of the disease will reduce the incidence of deaths related to COVID-19.”
Gov. Ralph Northam on Sunday encouraged Virginians to prepare for the “long haul” of self-isolation and quarantine as positive cases — and now deaths — continue to grow in the state.
With Northam’s recent emergency declaration, the National Guard was activated but has yet to be deployed to critical areas such as hospitals and mobile test sites.
As of Sunday, James City County is leading the state with the number of positive cases at 32 — there were 20 a day prior.
James City County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Icenhour said the county is going to take measures to limit the spread of the virus and will continue to follow guidance from the governor.
The county’s public parks and beaches currently remain open. Ichenhour said the goal was to give residents a location where they could be outside and stretch their legs, but it has come to the attention of the Board of Supervisors that people have been congregating in groups at the parks.
Icenhour said he had received complaints about a group of young people who were throwing a party at College Creek.
“We want to try to reinforce to people that it’s really important to social distance themselves,” he said. “I know it’s frustrating but we are a prime target because we are an older community with a lot of affluent people who travel…but we can’t emphasize enough that it’s not just the elderly at risk, it’s impacting everyone.”
Icenhour said he doesn’t know if a “shelter-in-place” order will come from the governor’s desk anytime soon, but James City County can take further actions in shutting down local businesses if needed.
The only issue: All three localities in the area need to be in agreement to shut down businesses and prevent the spread, he said.
“It’s no good if we shut down and then people just go into [Williamsburg] to go out to eat,” he said. “To make it effective for the whole community, we need to be in concert with this.”
Icenhour added that even if a total shutdown were necessary, essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and food delivery would still be available.
“It’s a touchy issue, telling people that they have to close their stores down, but it may come to that,” he added. “We just haven’t gotten to that quite yet.”
Icenhour said many of the issues will be discussed during the board’s meeting Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“It’s unfortunate because we know the numbers will go up and we have to make tough decisions to make it easier on our medical facilities and first responders,” he said. “We are thinly manned for a community of our size so we can’t afford to lose any of them.”
It’s the first coronavirus death in Williamsburg.
“This is sad and difficult news for our entire community,” said Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling. “Our hearts are with the family and friends of the victim of this devastating virus. This fatality, in addition to the other tragic deaths on the Peninsula, reinforces the severity of this pandemic and significantly underscores the importance of doing all we can to stop the spread of this dreadful virus.”
City officials urge residents in the Greater Williamsburg area to stay home, but if they have to go out to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
The Peninsula Health District Call Center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
For COVID-19 questions, call 757-594-7069.