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COVID-19 overview in Northeastern NC

From Martin-Tyrrell-Washington District Health Department

As of Monday morning, Martin County reported 15 cases, Tyrrell had four, and Washington County reported 23 cases with two deaths.

Statewide, there were 9,142 laboratory-confirmed cases, 306 deaths, 109,920 completed tests, 473 Tar Heels hospitalized, and confirmed cases in 95 of the state’s 100 counties.

The Martin-Tyrrell-Washington District Health Department (MTW) is continuing to investigate each positive laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 as we start to see community spread in our District. “Community spread,” meaning the source of infection is unknown, has been occurring in several nearby counties and in Martin, Tyrrell, and

Washington County. The COVID-19 virus is spread through person-to-person interaction, including:

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Close contact with another person within 6 feet

Through aerosolized respiratory droplets from talking, coughing, or sneezing

Through touching a surface or object and picking up virus particles and then toughing your face, eyes, nose, or mouth.

Droplets of the virus entering through the mouth or nose or inhaled through the lungs.

We do want to emphasize that many people with COVID-19 may not be included in these reports of laboratory confirmed positive cases – including the following groups:

People who do not feel sick

People who had symptoms but did not seek care or testing and who “self-quarantined”

People who sought care but may have been recommended by their provider to self- quarantine or they did not meet current CDC guidelines for testing

People with COVID-19 which was not detected by the coronavirus test

Recent evidence has also suggested that COVID-19 can be spread from people who are not showing any symptoms (asymptomatic), people showing only mild symptoms, or by people that are sick (symptomatic) who do not seek testing. It has also been shown that people may spread the virus to others several days before their own symptoms begin.

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“I want to emphasize that laboratory-confirmed positive tests give us an incomplete view of the true rate of infections or spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina and in our District. The number of asymptomatic patients and patients who are advised to self-quarantine will continue to grow as we experience community spread. It is for that reason that we should view the number of positive confirmed cases as only one piece of the larger picture of understanding COVID-19. It is crucial that we practice good social distancing measures until we see a downward trend in new cases of the virus,” says Wes Gray, Health Director.

We can do this by continuing to follow the mitigation guidelines outlined by Governor Cooper’s Stay at Home Order. Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and stay at home except for essential business or travel. Outdoor exercise is important and encouraged, as is helping vulnerable members of the community obtain supplies, medications, and food. As we approach a gradual easing of the Stay at Home Order on May 8, public health agencies are working hard to increase their testing capabilities (following State guidelines) and are preparing for increased contact tracing to identify COVID-19 hotspots. This will allow businesses to slowly resume normal operations while also keeping the number of COVID-19 cases as low as possible.

MTW will also continue to follow North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidelines on contact tracing of lab confirmed positive cases of the virus. “Close contacts” are defined as having direct contact with or having been within six feet for at least 10 minutes. Contact tracing aims to identify all individuals who may have had close contact with the lab confirmed case. MTW also releases a summary report each afternoon listing the number of total laboratory confirmed positive cases and the total number of “Recovered” patients. The recovered term means that it has been at least 7 days since the first day of illness, symptoms have been gone for at least 72 hours (3 days), other secondary symptoms have improved, and individuals have received guidance from their healthcare provider or the Health Department.

Health Director Wes Gray emphasizes the following practices that everyone can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Practice “Social Distancing,” especially if you are in the high-risk population (65 years and older and people with underlying health conditions or a compromised immune system).
  • Practice good hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, avoid shaking hands, covering coughs, and staying away from others if you are sick.
  • Avoid smoking and vaping. Smoking or vaping irritates the respiratory system, making it easier to develop infections. Sharing cigarettes or electronic vaping devices can contribute to spread of the virus.
  • Avoid panic. Most COVID-19 cases are mild, and patients have been making full recoveries. Panic only adds more stress to the healthcare system and prevents us from taking care of ourselves and our fellow residents.

Visit www.mtwdistricthealth.org for the latest information on COVID-19 (coronavirus).