New Hanover County health officials offer advice to prevent and prepare for COVID-19

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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) (Photo: CDC)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (News Release) – There are currently no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in New Hanover County, but public health officials are encouraging residents to actively work to prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, and prepare now for the potential impact of COVID-19 in our area.

“Risk of getting COVID-19 in our area is still low, but with two known cases in North Carolina and increased community spread in other areas of the United States, it’s a good idea to take even more precaution and be prepared,” said Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown. “Our individual practices are the first line of defense against the spread of COVID-19 in our area.”

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Residents are encouraged to increase prevention measures for cold and flu, and practice limited contact with others:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each 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 (like your phone, tablet, countertops and daily work surfaces).
  • Stay home and away from others when you are sick.
  • Use fist bumps or elbows instead of shaking hands or hugs.

“What we know about COVID-19 is that those at higher risk of complications if infected are older adults, anyone with a compromised immune system, and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes, COPD, heart disease and other chronic health issues, as well as long-time smokers,” said Brown. “We encourage those more vulnerable to avoid large gatherings and non-essential travel to prevent respiratory illness. And for those with no underlying risk or health condition; if you are sick it’s important to stay home and away from others to avoid spreading any respiratory illness.”

New Hanover County is working with licensed care facilities to ensure safety protocols, similar to influenza protocols, are in place for adult day care programs and long-term care and other residential settings.

Schools and businesses, including restaurants, daycare centers, recreational establishments and any other places the public is invited, are encouraged to sanitize common areas and individual workspace often. Cleaning agents that are commonly used are effective against COVID-19 and should continue to be used, following the directions on the label. Additional suggestions include:

  • Regularly wipe down with disinfectant work areas, especially desks, phones, keyboards, equipment, car door handles and interiors, registers, menus, credit card machines and anything else you or others touch frequently.
  • Have hand sanitizer in common areas for employee and public use.
  • Regularly disinfect pens, keypads and other things around your workstation used by the public.
  • Offer fresh pens that are then moved over to a “used pen” cup or bin away from the public for frequent cleaning.

Faith organizations are encouraged to consider how to reduce the opportunity of transmitting respiratory viruses and how they may be able to support those in their congregations who are more at risk by organizing grocery delivery or virtual services if people need to stay home to protect themselves.

In the event COVID-19 impacts our area, depending on the severity and prevalence of community spread, social distancing may be recommended. Residents should check their emergency kits now to have what is needed if staying at home for several days will prevent further impact of COVID-19. Visit Health.NHCgov.com for information on how to protect yourself from and prepare for COVID-19.

For general COVID-19 questions, call the NC Division of Public Health at 1-866-468-3821. If you have traveled to an area with active COVID-19 in the last 14 days and are experiencing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider or New Hanover County Public Health at 910-798-6500. If you use an urgent care or walk-in clinic, call ahead so they can plan safety precautions during your visit.

Visit PublicHealth.NHCgov.com/Coronavirus or CDC.gov for more information on the novel coronavirus.