First COVID-19 case identified in New Hanover County
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Public Health officials have identified the first and only presumptive positive case of the novel coronavirus in New Hanover County.
The person went to their doctor with symptoms on Monday and a test was conducted at that time. Isolation protocols were implemented immediately and test results showed a presumptive positive result of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
“I know this news makes this virus more real for all of us,” New Hanover County Commission Chair Julia Olsen-Boseman said. “And I know the first instinct is fear, but please remain calm.”
Initial contact tracing indicates that this is a travel-related case. Olsen-Boseman says officials believe it is an international travel case.
“The person returned to the U-S on March 12th, and developed very mild symptoms on March 13th,” she said.
However, the person could not be tested for a few more days.
“They returned to the New Hanover County area on March 15th through ILM airport, and then followed up with their provider on March 16th, where they were tested for COVID-19 and placed on home isolation,” Olsen-Boseman said.
Health officials are identifying who came into contact with this person and could potentially be carrying the virus.
“Contact tracing will come into play, so that will be follow-up, identify those thatwere potential close contacts,” says Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown. “Close contacts, defined by the CDC is within six feet for 10 minutes.”
This is the county’s first case, but there are 44 tests still pending.
“While this is the first case of the novel coronavirus in our community, it is something we’ve been preparing to respond to with our state and local partners,” said Olson-Boseman. “Our Public Health team is working closely with this individual to monitor their wellbeing and to make contact with anyone they have had close contact with over the last two weeks to mitigate any potential spread of the virus.”
New Hanover County Public Health issued isolation orders. The individual is doing well and has agreed to isolate in their home until criteria for clearance of COVID-19 is met.
“Our community has already implemented a number of measures that reduce individual risk of COVID-19, and have taken heed of the guidance shared from the state and our local team who has been working on these plans for the last several weeks,” said Olson-Boseman. “It’s important to remain calm and continue practicing social distancing, stay away from crowds and keep six feet between you and others to help keep our community safe and healthy. Stay home if you are able and make sure you are always relying on trusted resources for information.”
The county will begin deploying public health nurses to residents in need on Friday.
“We will ask them a series of questions and determine if we need to send their information up to our community health team, who will contact them, fully vet them, ask them more specific questions, and if they are determined to be appropriate for testing, we will have our mobile teams contact them,” says Personal Health Services Manager Carla Turner.
New Hanover County has been sharing guidance to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the community over the last several weeks, including reminders about personal hygiene, disinfecting items, and limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. View guidance from New Hanover County for households, businesses, community organizations and others at Health.NHCgov.com/Coronavirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people with COVID-19 have mild to moderate respiratory illness, with those over 65 or with underlying health issues at higher risk of serious illness, necessitating community guidance to reduce risk to this population. Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath and most cases are mild in severity. Residents are encouraged to continue prevention measures and practice limited contact with others:
- Practice social distancing: avoid crowds, gatherings of more than 10 people, and maintain 6 feet of distance from 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.
Currently, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has established COVID-19 testing standards. Only those who meet the following criteria should ask their doctor or local health department about being tested for COVID-19:
- Have fever or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days
- Have fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and a negative flu test
If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, call your healthcare provider or walk-in clinic before visiting the office to alert staff of symptoms, so they can take appropriate steps to prepare for your visit.
New Hanover County has established a Coronavirus Call Center for residents to speak with a nurse to assess their individual risk and, if needed, be connected to a provider. The Coronavirus Call Center can be reached at 910-798-6800 and is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
New Hanover County will hold a virtual press conference at 5:30 p.m. that will be streamed live on the county’s Facebook page.