COVID cases drop to 0, bounce back to 2

Published 5:49 pm Thursday, May 7, 2020

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For the first time in a month and a half, Beaufort County had no active COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

That changed Thursday as another test came back positive for an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.

“This individual was actually detected from a pre-op. Several of our cases have been detected during those surgical pre-op tests,” said Chris Newkirk, deputy director of Beaufort County Emergency Services.

By Friday, the total rose to two positive cases in the county.

Beaufort County had its first positive tests confirmed on March 24. Since, the county has kept its numbers low compared to some neighboring counties — Pitt County has identified 152 cases of the virus and 49 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

No more than seven cases have been active in Beaufort County on any given date since March 24, and since May 1, the number of active cases has steadily dropped until it hit zero Wednesday. Roughly a quarter of the county’s cumulative 23 cases have been discovered in asymptomatic patients, either through pre-op procedures or testing of someone in contact with a known carrier of the virus.

Newkirk said the presence of the asymptomatic cases means there a lot of uncertainty as to how prevalent the virus is anywhere.

“We do not want people to become complacent on a number,” Newkirk said. “Should people continue to take precautions? Yes, we’re going to encourage everyone to remain diligent, to continue to take the precautions we’ve said all along: hand washing, social distancing, limiting the number of people you’re around, not touching your face.”

Newkirk stressed that the original goal of all the precautions remains, regardless of how many active cases of COVID-19 exist in the county.

“The goal was not to overload our health care system. We cannot forget that,” he said. “The goal of the mitigation pieces was to make sure our health care system was not overwhelmed, and we’ve been successful at that. … We know we are going to have more positive cases in Beaufort County, and there’s going to periods where, like right now, we have a lull in active cases. But can we say that, conclusively, this lull is going to continue? We can’t.”