CHARLOTTE – Two people have tested presumptive positive for coronavirus disease 2019 at Mecklenburg County facilities, Public Health Director Gibbie Harris announced March 12.
The health department is investigating both cases to understand how they contracted COVID-19 and who may have come in contact with them. Once those people have been identified, they will be issued quarantine orders for 14 days.
“These individuals are ill, but they are isolating at home,” Harris said. “They are not severely ill. We need to be supportive as a community of individuals who have been exposed or become ill from this infection.”
She told the media during a March 12 press conference that the county won’t release the identities of patients or where they work or live. Her staff learned the news a day prior at about 11 p.m. She isn’t sure if both people live in Mecklenburg County.
“I want to reinforce the fact that we are now in a situation where we could potentially have community spread,” Harris said. We understand that that was coming and we want to reinforce that that is likely in our community. At the same time, we want people to do what they can to help protect themselves and the community at large.”
Harris said people most at risk with coronavirus – adults ages 65 and older, those with chronic diseases and compromised immune systems – should avoid exposure as much as possible.
The county recommends older adults avoid mass gatherings, including church services.
Harris said the county was waiting to hear more refined recommendations on mass gatherings from Gov. Roy Cooper later in the day.
County staff has recommended facilities that house people 65 and older restrict visitation to immediate family members not showing symptoms.
Harris said people have been showing up at doctor’s offices, hospitals and the health department asking to be tested for coronavirus, but testing is limited to people showing symptoms.
“We do have increased testing in this community,” she said. “It is still limited. We are being very careful working with our partners who have the ability to test to make that sure we are testing those people we need to at this point.”
Atrium Health recommends people call ahead before visiting a doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency department to let them know about their symptoms.
“We certainly take care of infectious patients every single day,” Dr. Jim Hunter, chief medical officer, with Atrium Health said. “Our staff is both trained and ready for this and ready for the more severe pandemic. Working closely with the county and the city, we think we have everything in place.”
Dr. Sid Fletcher, chief clinical officer for Novant Health’s greater Charlotte market, said his health system also deals with viral infections frequently. Novant Health has separated emergency departments by sick and well areas, as well as looked at alternative sites outside of the emergency department.
Atrium Health and Novant Health are among several regional health systems that have tightened visitation policies to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19. Atrium Health and Novant Health are only allowing immediate family to visit patients in their hospitals unless absolutely necessary.
Atrium Health also said it won’t allow any visitors, including family members, with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, in patient areas.
Both systems already have restrictions in place preventing children ages 12 and younger from visits due to the flu. They encourage patients to communicate with friends and family via phone calls or video chats.
Atrium Health recommends those with flu or cold-like symptoms to stay home from work or school until they have no fever for at least 48 hours without medicine.
The Charlotte Regional Alliance has emailed surveys to its members this week to get a sense of how comfortable they’d be attending public events, as well as asking how their businesses have been affected by coronavirus.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston said the district will rely on recommendations from the Mecklenburg County Health Department regarding school closings. At this time, there’s no recommendation for schools to close.
“Continue to take precautionary steps,” Winston advised families. “If a child or an adult is sick, we strongly encourage them to stay home.”
CMS has suspended all travel. The district is waiting on feedback from the N.C. High School Athletic Association about how to handle athletic games.
Want to learn more?
Mecklenburg County has posted several resources on its website, which include recommendations from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The county has
The county has an information hotline at 980-314-9400.