PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia first lady Pam Northam have both tested positive for COVID-19, the governor’s office announced Friday morning.
The governor is currently asymptomatic, but Pam Northam has mild symptoms.
The couple was tested Thursday afternoon after they were notified a member of the governor’s residence staff, “who works closely within the couple’s living quarters,” had tested positive.
The Northams will now isolate for the next 10 days, per Virginia Department of Health guidelines.
VDH says people can be released from isolation after at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, or 10 days after a positive test if you never had symptoms.
Northam will continue to work from the executive mansion, while the couple works with VDH to trace their close contacts.
The governor visited Hampton Roads briefly on Tuesday morning to make an economic announcement in Hampton, and made several stops at schools in Northern Virginia. Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck says he’s made arrangements for himself and the entire Hampton City Council to get tested after the visit. Tuck stood next to Northam at the event and then went to a council meeting on Wednesday.
“As I’ve been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious,” said Northam in a news release. “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.”
Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax said Northam informed him about the positive COVID-19 tests on Thursday. Fairfax issued a statement that he will be in Richmond Friday to president over the Senate when it reconvenes and added, “I will continue to work closely with the Governor and Administration officials to ensure Virginia’s sustained strong leadership at a critical time for our Commonwealth and country.”
Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond), a Democrat who is also running for governor, told 8News’ Jackie Defusco on Friday that “It’s a reminder of just how serious this disease is. It’s not going away and even with the best precautions we don’t know a lot about it.”
Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe wished the Northams a swift recovery on Twitter. “We are all in this together in fighting this unprecedented pandemic,” he wrote. While he has not yet announced any decision, McAuliffe has taken steps towards a potential run for governor in 2021.
The governor made two announcements, including one at George Mason University, and the first lady made five appearances as part of a “Back to School” tour on Tuesday, according to a public schedule released Monday by Northam’s office.
Northam, who typically only takes off his mask during public appearances to speak, wore a mask while speaking at the university. While making her own stops across the commonwealth, the first lady has been seen following mask-wearing guidelines.
While the governor and first lady tested positive on Thursday, it is not clear when they were exposed to the virus. Last week, Gov. Northam went to vote early at the new Richmond general registrar’s office and the first lady went to a “Back to School” event near the nation’s capital with Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and an event in Richmond with Mayor Levar Stoney the next day.
Other Virginia senators addressed the news as well, with Republicans and Democrats expressing their thoughts on the Northams and concerns over the virus.
“The great thing about the Senate of Virginia is we love and care for each other. We love and care for the governor. We want them and we are praying for them to have a speedy recovery,” Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford) told Defusco.
“I was very sorry to hear that the governor and the First Lady Pam tested positive,” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax). “It can happen to anyone.”
Northam, who is now the third governor in the U.S. to contract the virus, is among a handful of notable elected officials in Virginia to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Del. Delores L. McQuinn (D-Richmond) was infected in April and Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) began to feel mild symptoms and tested positive for the virus in August. Del. Thomas C. Wright Jr. (R-Lunenburg) tested positive a week after the Virginia House met in-person on Aug. 18.
In a statement Tuesday, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) called out Wright for “a lack of transparency” for not informing the chamber.
“According to reporting, Delegate Wright’s Office notified members of his church of the Delegate’s positive test, yet no notification to this moment has been given to my office or Clerk Denslow,” Filler-Corn said. “While he thought members of his community should be informed of his positive test, his colleagues in the House were not given the same courtesy by the Delegate nor the House Republican Caucus.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and his wife tested positive for antibodies, which does not confirm that the senator had the virus, in late May.