Public health department: 3 new COVID-19 cases in Chatham, now 6 total

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/25/20

The Chatham County Public Health Department announced Wednesday, March 25, that three more residents had tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, in a news release. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services notified the Chatham health department of the positive tests on March 24. The new positives bring the total caseload in Chatham to six individuals.

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Public health department: 3 new COVID-19 cases in Chatham, now 6 total

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Posted

The Chatham County Public Health Department announced Wednesday, March 25, that three more residents had tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, in a news release.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services notified the Chatham health department of the positive tests on March 24. The new positives bring the total caseload in Chatham to six individuals. Further information on the cases was not provided due to privacy reasons.

“Because of the infectiousness of the new coronavirus, we expect the number of cases to continue to rise,” Chatham County Public Health Director Layton Long said in the news release. “I urge the public not to focus on specific confirmed case counts but rather, as a result of known community transmission occurring in NC, those things that we all can do collectively to slow the spread of the virus and protect ourselves and those at higher risk of serious illness: stay home and away from public places to the fullest extent possible, practice social distancing if you do have to go out, do not go out, if you are having symptoms (call your doctor), and wash your hands and sanitize surfaces that may have come into contact with others before touching them.”

Long cited North Carolina's designation as a state with community spread, where there are cases found with no connection to other COVID-19 positive tests.

“As the degree of community transmission increases and the number of cases grows, our capacity to follow up with individual cases and everyone who might be a close contact to a case becomes more and more limited,” said Long. “In addition, critical supplies like masks and other protective equipment for healthcare and public health staff, as well as first responders, must be prioritized to treat and protect those at highest risk of serious illness. This cannot be stressed enough; all Chatham County residents must practice social distancing, limiting in-person contact with others and washing their hands often. We all have the power to reduce the spread of this virus, but we must act now.”

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 March 5.

Two more positive tests were announced on Tuesday, March 17, and the county government declared a state of emergency in response.

"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."

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