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Gov. Cooper, health officials speak after second coronavirus case in NC: ‘No need for panic’

Updated: Mar. 6, 2020 at 2:02 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WECT/WBTV) - A second person in North Carolina has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

There’s really no need for panic,” health officials said Friday during a press conference with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

The test in the second case, conducted by the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health, is presumptively positive and will be confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab.

The person is doing well and is in isolation at his home in Chatham County. This case is unrelated to the first positive case that was discovered in Wake County. That person is in stable condition and is also in isolation.

Chatam County is working to identify people the man was in contact with.

“Our state has been preparing diligently,” Cooper said Friday, reiterating that it’s important for people to get tested and that more test kits are needed from the CDC.

“We are doing everything that we can to get more test kits and we aren’t out of them yet," Cooper said. “As testing increases, we know that the number of positives will go up.”

The Chatam County health director said the man from the area is doing well and being “continuously” monitored.

“We will continue to approach this situation aggressively,” Cooper said.

Health officials say the man traveled in late February to an area in Italy that now has a COVID-19 outbreak. He had two days of mild, flu-like symptoms while in Italy. His fever resolved and symptoms were improving, and he flew back to the United States the following day.

The man’s wife is currently symptom-free, health officials say, but she will remain in quarantine for two weeks after her husband tests negative for the virus.

Tests for COVID-19 have been being administered for the past several weeks, health officials said, and only two people have tested positive so far. People will be asked to stay in isolation as they await test results.

This person was a contact to a case in Georgia and the Georgia Department of Health notified North Carolina health officials.

Chatham County Public Health Department officials conducted a home visit and collected specimens, which came back presumptively positive Thursday night. He has been cooperative and is in home isolation until follow-up tests are negative.

The Chatham County Public Health Department will work to identify close contacts to monitor symptoms.

Since the person had been symptomatic before travel, the CDC will identify close contacts on the flight thought to be at risk and notify the appropriate public health agencies. To protect individual privacy, no further information about the identity of the person will be released.

While awaiting confirmation of results from the CDC, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will treat presumptive cases as positive and follow CDC guidelines to protect public health and limit the spread of infection.

COVID-19 is currently not widespread in North Carolina. Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, North Carolinians should take the same measures that health care providers recommend to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and covering coughs and sneezes.

“Often, the people we are testing test positive for flu," health officials say.

Last month, Cooper established the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force to support the state’s ongoing effort to monitor, prepare for and respond to COVID-19. State actions include:

Containment

· Proactively launched cross-agency preparation work in January, putting together an aggressive containment strategy of rapid identification of suspected cases, testing and contact tracing.

· Began testing cases at the NC State Laboratory of Public Health, which allows for faster results and a faster response.

· Monitoring travelers returning from China through local health departments.

Preparation and Ongoing Response

· Formalized preparation and response work with Governor Cooper creating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force.

· Developing detailed response plans for a range of scenarios.

· Engaged in regular communication with federal, state and local partners.

· Preparing health care providers and facilities to streamline and standardize response activities including regular calls and mobilizing resources.

· Sharing and updating guidelines on how to proactively prepare and respond, including guidelines for health care providers, child care, employers, schools, colleges and universities, and others.

Public Information

· Activated a Joint Information Center to provide timely information.

· Maintaining an up-to-date website with information about COVID-19 disease, risk, and guidance.

· Staffing a COVID-19 phone line to answer urgent questions from the public.

North Carolinians with questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call the COVID-19 phone line toll-free at 866-462-3821. This helpline is staffed by the North Carolina Poison Control 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more information, please visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and NCDHHS’ website at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus, which will also include future positive COVID-19 test results in North Carolina.

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