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Dozens in Self-Quarantine at Virginia Theological Seminary

There are 57 residential students and faculty in self-quarantine at Virginia Theological Seminary since Alexandria’s first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 was contracted in its Immanuel Chapel.

“There are student volunteers delivering the food to those in isolation,” Curtis Prather, the seminary’s communications director, told ALXnow. “The student who tested positive is doing well and is expecting for a full recovery.”

Prather said there have been five people at the seminary who have shown flu-like symptoms, but they have all tested negative for COVID-19 in the last week. There are no restrictions to visiting the campus, aside from those from state, local, or federal authorities that ban large gatherings. Its buildings, including Immanuel Chapel, the Welcome Center, the Bishop Payne Library, and all administrative buildings are all closed until March 23 and are being deep cleaned.

“Most of the self-quarantines were done out of an abundance of caution, and the end dates are different depending on when they believe they could have been exposed – not all of them are from a singular instance,” Prather said, adding that staff are currently working remotely. “We have worked closely with the City of Alexandria to track all of this.”

The city’s first presumptive positive case was announced last Wednesday. A city resident became infected after being in close contact with an infected D.C. resident who spent time at the chapel after being infected at Christ Church Georgetown, which now has 550 parishioners in self-quarantine.

The city said that worshipers and visitors to the chapel between Feb. 26 and March 4 should monitor themselves for symptoms.

The second presumptive positive case in the city was reported on Sunday morning. The resident attended a conference in D.C. and made “close contact with an individual later confirmed to have COVID-19,” according to the city.

“As you can imagine, this is an extremely fluid situation,” Prather said.

Virginia Theological Seminary issued the following press release:

ALEXANDRIA,VA – Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) has closed due to the confirmation of a student testing “presumptive positive” for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“I announced last night that the campus is closed,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president. “We will ask for a deep clean of the campus. Classes will continue online. Membership of the Episcopal High School gym has been suspended. 1823 is closed. The Butterfly House and Library are both closed.”

On March 10, the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) was notified that a resident of Washington, DC, associated with Christ Church in Georgetown, who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, spent time at the Immanuel Chapel at VTS. AHD’s investigation identified and called individuals who had close contact with the Washington, DC resident, to advise them to self-quarantine at home, including students and faculty of VTS. One of those close contacts was the VTS student who tested presumptive positive.

The Seminary was notified the AHD of the test last night and announced the closure of the campus. “Presumptive positive” means the test, conducted by Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services in Richmond, was positive and is pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the AHD, the student is currently doing well and is isolated at home.

At VTS, we are conscious of the need to protect our community and guests from the virus as much as we are able. Our assumption throughout is that we are seeking to follow the advice of the CDC and other health-related authorities and medical professionals. Effective until Monday, March 23, 2020:

  • All Seminary administrative offices have closed.
  • The Butterfly House (on-site childcare) has closed.
  • The Bishop Payne Library has closed.
  • 1823 has closed.
  • Chapel services remain canceled.
  • Classes will continue online.

“There have been cases of COVID-19 in most states and across the National Capital region,” said AHD Director Dr. Stephen A. Haering. “The Alexandria Health Department and the City of Alexandria have been preparing for this. COVID-19 is an evolving situation, and we will continue to share information as it becomes available. Based on our current investigation, the general Alexandria community is still at low risk for COVID-19.”

The Alexandria Health Department advises that visitors to the campus, who were not contacted directly by AHD and asked to self-quarantine, should consider themselves to be at low risk. Such visitors should self-monitor for symptoms. Self-monitoring includes checking body temperature twice a day and monitoring for symptoms of cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or temperature higher than 100.4 F. If you were potentially exposed at Immanuel Chapel and have any of these symptoms, or if you develop them within 14 days of the visit, call your primary care physician. Guests who do not show these symptoms do not need to call your physician or be tested for COVID-19.

“While uncertainty surrounds us on every side, we are invited to trust in the agency and work of the Creator God,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. “Let us pray for those impacted by this virus and for those public servants and doctors who are working to ameliorate the situation.”

For the latest information, please visit www.vts.edu/coronavirus.

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