Chatham announces 2 new COVID-19 cases, declares state of emergency

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PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Public Health Department announced Tuesday that two more Chatham residents have tested positive for COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, and as a result, the county has declared a state of emergency.

The county press release indicated that the department was notified on Tuesday by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and that no further information about the individuals would be disclosed for privacy reasons.

County Public Health Director Layton Long said in the news release that the county is "expecting to see more cases" as testing continues.

“We urge residents to stay vigilant and follow the guidance of local, state and national public health officials," Long said. "Social distancing is going to be critical to our efforts in slowing the spread of the new coronavirus. We ask residents to please heed the guidance of the governor’s office and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. We all must work together to protect our community, especially those at high risk, and reduce the burden from the new coronavirus on the healthcare system.”

Soon afterward, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to declare a state of emergency in the county, following similar declarations made by both state and federal officials.

"This proactive step by the BOC to activate the County’s Emergency Operations Plan, allows for reallocation of staff and authorizes the County Manager to take all necessary actions to protect lives and property, and to ensure safety and public order," County Manager Dan LaMontagne said in a statement. "It is also an administrative step to be taken by the County during a federally declared state of emergency to be eligible for reimbursements for emergency response activities."

One of those positive tests could have come from Governors Club in northeast Chatham. Governors Club General Manager Doug Shifflet sent an email notice to club members Tuesday morning saying that "the member and resident of Governors Club who was exposed to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has tested positive," and that all Club facility usage and operations were suspended, including golf and tennis, "until we receive further direction from Chatham County Health Department."

"The individual has told us he/she is reaching out to those with whom they had contact," the email said. "We have contacted Chatham County Health Department to determine what additional information we can provide and when we can reopen our outdoor activities. The Clubhouse and Wellness Center will be thoroughly cleaned before reopening."

The county announced its first case on Friday, March 6, saying a man traveled in late February to an area in Italy that is now the site of a COVID-19 outbreak. While there, he experienced two days of “mild, flu-like symptoms.” Eventually, the man’s fever “resolved” and symptoms improved, and he flew back to the U.S. the next day.

Soon afterward, North Carolina health officials were notified by the Georgia Department of Health that the man was a contact to a case in that state, meaning that he had been in proximity to someone in Georgia that contracted COVID-19. Chatham County Public Health Department personnel conducted a home visit and collected specimens. A test revealed a presumptive positive Thursday night.

County health officials are continuing to monitor the individuals who tested positive and are following up with anyone identified as a close contact — someone who was "within six feet for 10 minutes or more."

At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Mandy Cohen, secretary of NC DHHS, said the state had 40 positive tests total as of Tuesday morning and had tested more than 1,000 people across the state.

For more information about the new coronavirus and Chatham County’s response, visit www.chathamnc.org/coronavirus.

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