What to do with COVID-19 symptoms

Published 7:55 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

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The social and travel habits of today’s population likely mean Beaufort County will have its own cases of COVID-19 in the near future, according to the Thursday evening update from Chris Newkirk, chief of fire/emergency management for Beaufort County Emergency Services.

“We expect that and are prepared to respond accordingly,” Newkirk wrote. “The announcement of a local case, or cases should serve as a reminder of the importance of practicing our mitigation efforts and not simply a source for panic.”

The common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Anyone with those symptoms should contact their  primary care provider — do not visit, but call. A patient will only be tested for COVID-19 in one of two scenarios:


  • A patient has fever or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and has had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days; or
  • A patient has fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and a negative rapid flu test.


The criteria in place is due to the shortage of COVID-19 tests.

Those who are uninsured, or do not have a primary care provider, if exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should call the local federal qualified health center, Agape Community Health Center in Washington, said Beaufort County Public Health Director Jim Madson. Madson emphasized the need to call ahead of time — a message that’s repeated on a sign in the vestibule of the West Fourth Street clinic: “Have you traveled to an outbreak-affected area? Have you been in contact with someone that has tested positive? Symptoms to look for: fever, shortness of breath, cough. If yes to the above, please return to your vehicle and call us at 252-789-0401. We will see you, however we must follow certain protocols.”

Madson said Beaufort County Public Health may also be able to help, as the agency gained the ability to test for flu on Thursday morning, as a negative flu test is one of the criteria to clear the way for COVID-19 testing of those exhibiting symptoms.

“They can call and talk to us because we do have limited use of a provider,” Madson said. “If they call us, we’ll try to hook them up with Agape first, but if they’re filled, we can now do the flu test in the health department.”

If any treatment required, the patient would be referred by Beaufort County Public Health to other providers. The protocol for testing is being solidified, and the situation is constantly evolving.

“As cases continue to escalate, you will see a shift in focus from testing to treatment. Again, testing is a diagnostic step, not a cure or treatment of symptoms,” Newkirk wrote. “There will be a significant increase in known (nationwide) cases over the coming days. These increases are primarily contributed to widespread testing initiatives, as well as community outbreaks now in the larger metropolitan areas of New York and Washington.”