Coronavirus update provided to Dare commissioners
Published 2:18 pm Thursday, March 5, 2020
At the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday morning, March 2, the county’s public health director Sheila Davies delivered a report on novel coronavirus.
Some basic facts about the virus were presented. It is a respiratory illness that can spread person to person via droplets from coughs or sneezes or possibly by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching mouth, nose or possibly eyes.
The symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, but not the malaise or fatigue that comes with flu. The new virus symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It’s not a seasonal virus.
On Tuesday, March 3, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that one case of coronavirus has been found in North Carolina.
“We don’t need to panic,” said Davies on Monday. She offered the perspective of national figures on this year’s seasonal influenza. In the United States, 310,000 people have been hospitalized with flu. Some 18,000 deaths have occurred. In North Carolina, the number of deaths reported so far this year is 115.
Coronavirus needs a carrier, reported Davies. “It only attacks the lungs.”
– Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
– Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
– Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
– Get a flu vaccine shot.
– Stay home when you are sick.
Preparedness at the national level is led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and follows the standard protocol with an incident management system set up Jan. 7 and an emergency operations center activated Jan. 21. Unprecedented steps were taken regarding travel. The CDC has travel guidance out to avoid non-essential trips to China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. Enhanced precautions are to be taken if traveling to Japan.
North Carolina’s response efforts include setting up weekly public health conference calls on Feb. 4 and a Coronavirus Task Force on Feb. 11.
As of Tuesday, March 3, the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health is now able to perform testing for the virus. “This new capability allows North Carolina to more quickly take public health steps to respond to any positive test result,” reports a state media release.
The state’s departments of Health and Human Services and Emergency Management are “working closely with local health departments, health care providers and others to quickly identify and respond to any potential isolated cases that might occur in the state and prepare North Carolinians to be ready in the event of more widespread, national COVID-19 transmission,” says the media release.
On the local level, Dare’s public health department epidemiology team has been activated, plans are under review and a webpage has been established.
On Tuesday, Davies met with key community partners, including EMS, Emergency Management, Dare County Schools, Outer Banks Hospital and National Park Service. The meeting was called to check in with each other about plans.