North Carolina documents first case of COVID-19 community spread

Published 6:07 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

By JONATHAN DREW, Associated Press

North Carolina’s governor said Thursday, March 19 that the state has documented its first case of community spread of coronavirus as positive cases climbed to nearly 100 overall.

Gov. Roy Cooper also said unemployment benefit requests had surged to 18,000 since he issued an executive order Tuesday loosening rules for claims as bars, restaurants and other businesses reduce operations due to social distancing and other virus-fighting measures. The state typically sees about 3,000 claims per week under normal circumstances.

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Cooper said the state health lab confirmed the case of community spread of COVID-19 in Wilson County east of Raleigh, meaning that the person had not traveled to a coronavirus hot spot or been in contact with someone else already known to have the virus.

“This is an expected, but still unfortunate benchmark in this new pandemic,” he said.

Overall, the state has 97 positive cases as of Thursday, up from about 60 the previous day, he said.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of victims recover.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Small Business Administration granted Cooper’s request for a disaster declaration to help small businesses suffering from effects of the pandemic by giving them access low-interest loans.

The governor urged people to take precautions seriously even before the worst has hit the state, invoking the state’s frequent preparation for tropical weather as a comparison.

“In the past, I’ve stood at this podium on sunny days with a Tar Heel-blue sky outside and warned about a hurricane that may be on the way. It’s hard to grasp that a hurricane is coming before the worst hits. We know that this situation will get worse before it gets better. And I know that people are shell-shocked,” he said, before adding: “But we need you. We need you to take this seriously.”

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