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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Randolph County begins preparing for coronavirus

Local Government

By Elle Johnson | Mar 14, 2020

Randolph County is working closely with the state to prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak. | Stock photo

Concerns for the coronavirus (COVID-19) have heightened in Randolph County as the first case was confirmed in the state on Tuesday, March 3. 

In a news conference on March 3, Gov. Roy Cooper said a person in Wake County tested positive for COVID-19. According to the state's Department of Health and Human Services, there are 23 confirmed cases in the state as of March 14.

Randolph County officials are working closely with the state to ensure the county is ready if the virus were to enter the area. 

Director of Public Relations for Randolph Health April Thornton said hospitals are making sure everyone is well-informed for the virus. They are also following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vendors are working with hospitals to help the hospitals gather more supplies. 

“Right now we are still assessing our supply needs, but early interventions will be around securing more personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies,” Thornton told the Courier-Tribune.

Any patients who enter Randolph Health through the emergency department are being screened for COVID-19, Thornton said. She also said the virus could be misdiagnosed as the flu, which is a concern of the hospital.

“It is a respiratory illness, as is the flu,” Thornton said. “That’s why the screening criteria is important in helping to get clarity around who potentially should be tested for the coronavirus.”

Only the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health can test for the virus. Patients who enter the ER must answer yes to two questions to be screened: Do they have fever or lower respiratory illness symptoms? And have they traveled to China, Italy, South Korea, Japan or Iran within 14 days? 

If a patient answers yes to both questions, the local health department and the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health are contacted. The other way an individual will received testing is if they have been in close contact with a person who has the virus. 

A pandemic plan is also in place in case an outbreak occurs, Susan Haynes of the Randolph County Health Department said. 

“We have a pandemic flu plan that we use as a framework for COVID-19,” Hayes told the Courier-Tribune.

Hayes also said the pandemic plan is classified. 

The Randolph County Health Department has also made its Public Health Response Team active, which will have weekly calls with the NC Department of Health and Human Services' Communicable Disease Branch. 

“We are developing consistent messaging around prevention, much like what people hear regarding flu prevention,” Hayes said.

The county's health department gives advice to stay home if an individual is sick and to encourage employees to stay home if they are sick to help prevent catching the virus. The department also said to keep a distance from people who are sick and to cover coughs and sneezes. It's also important to frequently wash hands for 20 seconds at a time and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Lastly, the health department suggested cleaning surfaces regularly and avoiding touching shared surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs. 

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