The Virginia Department of Health confirmed on Thursday there's widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in Danville and throughout the state.

"Yes, there is community transmission in Danville," Dr. Scott Spillmann, director of the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District, wrote in an email to the Register & Bee.

Spillmann stressed that personal precautions — hygiene and distance — are still the most effective ways of protection from COVID-19, a severe respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

"That's how we save lives," he said.

The two latest cases announced Wednesday in Danville involve a woman in her 70s and a man in his 30s. While health officials could not disclose any details — including where a patient may have been employed — Spillmann outlined the general process of what he called "epidemiological investigations" for any communicable illness.

Officials conduct contact tracing, which involves "identifying all the possible contacts for a patient, assessing their risk of exposure and providing medical and public health measures to protect individuals and the community," Spillman said. "That work continues at warp speed for COVID-19."

Following the health department's announcement of widespread transmission locally and throughout the state, Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones released a statement Thursday urging residents to stay at home as much as possible.

“I strongly encourage our citizens to follow the advice of our public health officials,” Jones said. “It is critically important that each of us do what we can to slow the spread of this terrible disease. For the sake of our health workers and the most vulnerable parts of our community, I am urging everyone to follow social distancing guidelines strictly.”

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