Public health updates board on coronavirus

Public health updates board on coronavirus

Macon County Department of Public Health Services photo by Vickie Carpenter

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

If someone presents at the Macon County Health Department with symptoms that could be the coronavirus, after a series of questions to determine travel exposure and the possibility of coming in contact with the disease, the health department has test kits available to test patients. 

“We have three test kits,” Jennifer Garrett with the Macon County Public Health Department told commissioners at the Tuesday night board meeting. “But we can get more if needed.”

Garrett said that because of the limited number of test kits, people are not being tested for the virus if they present and are found to be asymptomatic, but if there is reason to believe someone could have been exposed, then they will be screened accordingly. 

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a state of Emergency on Tuesday after the seventh confirmed case of the virus was announced for North Carolina. According to health officials, the State of Emergency will open up more funding sources for research and prevention, as well as prohibit price gouging for things such as cleaning supplies, which is the public’s best defense against the virus at this point. There are no confirmed cases of the virus in Macon County. 

Commissioner Ronnie Beale spoke Tuesday night and said that by chance, he and County Manager Derek Roland were scheduled to meet with Congressman Mark Meadows in Washington last week, but due to a scheduling conflict, their meeting in Meadows’ office was cancelled. The following day, Meadows was quarantined after coming into contact with the virus. Meadows will be quarantined and monitored for symptoms for 14 days – he has not tested positive for the virus and the quarantine is about caution. Beale noted that had he and Roland met with Meadows, due to CDC recommendations, they, too would be quarantined.  

Macon County Public Schools also sent letters out to parents last Wednesday with information on what is currently knowns about the virus, including symptoms, ways to prevent its spread, and steps to take if you have symptoms or feel ill.  

Mission Health system activates 

additional visitor precautions

To protect patients and staff, Mission Health is actively reducing visitors to Mission Hospitals – including Angel Medical Center in a variety of ways:

• All patients and visitors are being screened upon entering AMC

• Limited access begins at 7 p.m. (instead of the usual 9 p.m.) until to 5 a.m. daily

• During limited access, patients and visitors will need to use the emergency department entrance

• Recommends no visitors younger than 12

These updates are meant to keep staff, patients and visitors healthy and reduce the possibility of exposure to the virus. Screenings and access restrictions are also in place at all Mission Health regional hospitals and CarePartners.

As a reminder to protect yourself and prevent the spread of illnesses:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

• Stay home when you are ill

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue

• Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands often, using either soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel for at least 20 seconds

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

According to, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.  All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including in the United States. Some international destinations now have apparent community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19, as do some parts of the United States. Community spread means some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed.

As of noon on Tuesday, the United States had 647 confirmed cases of the virus and 25 deaths. Of those 647 cases, 83 were attributed to travel, 36 related to person-to-person spread and 528 still under investigation with causes undetermined.