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Local officials coordinate COVID-19 response

Amidst rising concerns of the potential impact of COVID-19 in eastern North Carolina, local officials are offering a simple message — pay attention to the latest updates from health agencies exercise basic health precautions and above all, remain calm.

Friday morning, North Carolina representatives, local health officials and mayors from all of Beaufort County’s municipalities met together in Washington to discuss the overall plan to curb the spread of COVID-19 locally. A press conference followed Friday afternoon.

So far, the Beaufort County Health Department has stepped up its response in several ways, including weekly meetings of a local epidemiology team, a group that specializes in preventing the spread of communicable diseases. That team has members from the health department, Vidant, the school system and emergency management.

Also, the health department has set up a Health Emergency Operations Center, mostly consisting of department staff members. Part of this effort includes the establishment of a Joint Information Center to distribute accurate, vetted information to the public.

With the rapid spread of misinformation occurring on platforms like social media, Beaufort County Health Department Director Jim Madson encouraged the public to get the latest from reliable sources, a list of which accompany this article.

Madson said a small number of people have been tested for COVID-19 in Beaufort County based upon their symptoms, the presence of fever and testing negative for the flu. All results so far have come back negative.

“I expect, with the criteria for testing, to increase a lot of testing in the county,” Madson said. “We at the health department will be notified of any positives that do occur. The first thing we will do is let the public know we have had a positive in the county and then will follow up with the patient and make sure we cover their contacts and inform them to self-isolate for those 14 days.”

In the case of a positive result, Madson said that individual would be encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days. During that time, a communicable disease nurse from the health department will remain in touch with the patient daily. In the case that someone was extremely ill, Madson said they would likely be hospitalized in an isolation room. The department would also work with the patient to identify previous contacts who might need to self-quarantine or be tested.

Above all, however, the overall risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low in Beaufort County for the time being. Taking basic precautions such as regularly washing hands, covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding large gatherings, will help keep that risk low.

“COVID-19 is a cause for concern, but it is not a cause for fear and panic,” said Dr. Perrin Jones, a Vidant Health anesthesiologist and N.C. Representative for North Carolina’s 9th House district. “Quite frankly, the fear and panic, if we were to succumb to that, is something that will actually make what is currently a health crisis into a health catastrophe.”

BASIC PREVENTION

To help curb the spread of COVID-19 and other contagions, North Carolina Department of Health and Human services recommends the following:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.

LINES OF COMMUNICATION

The following are recommended sources of information for up-to-date, factual and reliable information regarding COVID-19. Because of the rapidly evolving nature of COVID-19, these sites are updated frequently.

BEAUFORT COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT

co.beaufort.nc.us/departments/human-services/public-health/2019-coronavirus-covid-19

Health Department Staff are also available at 252-946-1902 or at bchealth@bchd.net

NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus

A statewide COVID-19 hotline has also been established at 866-462-3821 for anyone with questions on the virus.

CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL

cdc.gov/coronavirus

VIDANT HEALTH

VidantHealth.com/covid-19.