COVID-19 cases continue to climb; New Hanover County health officials encourage safe practices to slow the spread

Posted June 11, 2020 at 4:54 pm     Category: Emergency ManagementEmergency NewsNews ReleaseOtherPublic Health

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – Cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in New Hanover County, surpassing 300 cases this week. Public Health is closely monitoring county-wide metrics – including the upward trends in daily new cases, rate of positive test results and hospital admissions. Public Health officials continue to encourage residents to practice protective measures and slow the spread of COVID-19.

In New Hanover County, there are currently 321 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, and of those 126 people have recovered, 190 are still ill and experiencing symptoms and five residents have passed away. There are also three “outbreaks” in congregate living settings in New Hanover County, defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as two or more cases of COVID-19 (residents or employees) in 28 days: Northchase Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Salvation Army of the Cape Fear emergency shelter and the New Hanover County Detention Center.

“Activity is increasing – businesses are reopening, there are more social gatherings, and we have seen organized events like protests over the past two weeks,” said New Hanover County Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Lisa Brown.” Exercising your First Amendment Rights is crucial, but it’s important to remember that COVID-19 spreads most easily among people in close proximity. So health and safety measures must come into play whenever you go out in public or are in large groups, in order to protect yourself and others, and prevent an overrun on our local healthcare system.”

New Hanover County’s case count doubled in 20 days (from 152 cases on May 22 to 304 on June 10), and in the last seven days (June 4 through June 10), the county averaged 11.3 new cases a day. As of Thursday, 22 people are hospitalized at New Hanover Regional Medical Center with COVID-19.

“We are working hand-in-hand with the hospital, healthcare partners, community organizations and the state to closely monitor metrics and make sure we have adequate supplies of PPE and the staff needed to respond to cases of COVID-19,” said Public Health Assistant Director Carla Turner, RN, MSHCA. “Our contact tracers are helping to contain the virus by working with individuals who have COVID-19 to inform their close contacts who may have been exposed to the virus. Everyone must also do their part by wearing a mask, waiting six feet apart from others, and washing their hands. We know the three W’s have been heard by everyone, but we have to keep repeating it because those three protective steps are so important.”

COVID-19 Testing

Updated testing guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services encourages those who have participated in mass gatherings to seek out testing. This expands testing options through private providers and organizations like CVS Pharmacy. Testing sites across the community and state can be found at NCDHHS.gov.

New Hanover County continues to provide diagnostic testing for anyone experiencing symptoms, those identified as a close contact to a confirmed case regardless of symptoms, and congregate living settings with concerns of a potential outbreak. Residents can call 910-798-6800 to speak with a Public Health nurse to be connected with local testing sites, or be pre-screened and scheduled for a COVID-19 test at the county’s open-air, drive-through site. Interpreters are available, and tests are provided at no cost, with no proof of insurance or residency required.

Contact Tracing

New Hanover County Public Health conducts contact tracing for every lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 who resides in New Hanover County. Contact tracing is the public health practice of identifying people who may have come into contact with someone infected with a communicable disease like measles, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted illnesses and COVID-19. Public Health staff contact individuals confirmed to have COVID-19 and help them recall everywhere they have been and with whom they came into contact from 48 hours before symptom onset to the time they got their test results. Then, they reach out to those identified as close contacts – those who had been within six feet for 10 or more minutes. Without sharing identifiable information about the person who has COVID-19, close contacts are informed they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and to monitor for symptoms and self-quarantine for 14 days. Close contacts are also eligible for diagnostic testing if they choose.

Over the past two weeks, contact tracers are asking questions specifically about a person’s attendance at gatherings, including protests. To date, no case of a New Hanover County resident with COVID-19 has been linked with a protest or other gathering.

It’s important to note that contact tracing is conducted in the county of residence, so residents of other counties who join an event in New Hanover County may not be known to, or contacted by New Hanover County Public Health.

Safe Practices

Residents who are out in public, especially those participating in mass gatherings, protests, demonstrations or other events are encouraged to follow protective measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Residents should:

  • Practice the three W’s
    • Wear a face covering when out in public
    • Wait six feet apart from others and don’t gather in groups
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Have hand sanitizer to use when hand washing is not possible
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched (like your phone, tablet, countertops and daily work surfaces)
  • Say home if you are sick, and cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Seek out testing for COVID-19, especially if you have had a known exposure, or are experiencing symptoms

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As of 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 11, 2020, there have been 321 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Hanover County. For more information about COVID-19 in New Hanover County, visit Health.NHCgov.com, call our Public Health Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800, and follow the county’s trusted social media pages: TwitterFacebook, Instagram, and Nextdoor.

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Communications and Outreach: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 195 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7461 • Fax 910-798-7277
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