CAPE FEAR REGION — The COVID-19 or new coronavirus has made headlines since the end of 2019 and since then the virus has continued to spread across the world. While New Hanover County has thus far remained unimpacted by the virus, local governments are preparing for the possibility of the illness reaching the region.
On Wednesday, Governor of North Carolina Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency.
“The declaration activates the Emergency Operations Center to help agencies coordinate from one location and makes it easier to purchase needed medical supplies, protect consumers from price gouging, and increase county health departments’ access to state funds,” according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Locally, New Hanover County is recommending residents practice ‘social distancing,’ which is, exactly what it sounds like.
“Those most at risk if infected with COVID-19 are older adults, people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, those with compromised immune systems and long-time smokers. To prevent getting sick and the impact of COVID-19, people who meet these risk factors should avoid crowds as much as possible, avoid cruise and air travel and make sure supplies are on hand to limit the need to go out in public,” according to a New Hanover County press release.
While there is no evidence to date that face masks protect people from contracting the viral infection, experts do recommend frequently washing your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds (there are plenty of songs to sing in your head to time this out if you don’t feel like counting to ’20 Mississippi’). Yes, regular soap does work (here’s why)! You can also use hand sanitizer with at least a 60% alcohol content.
Health experts also recommend disinfecting common areas (and smart phones, tablets, etc.), as the virus can persist on some surfaces for us to several days.
Impacts of the illness can be seen on massive scales with the World Health Organization upgrading COVID-19’s status to a global pandemic. President Donald Trump has suspended travel to Europe for 30 days, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has suspended the rest of its season, yet locally, plans for the Azaela Festival are still on.
Q. What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 symptoms?
It’s important to note that New Hanover Regional Medical Center is not performing testing at any of its facilities.
Officials are recommending residents utilize the NC Division of Public Health’s general information line for questions about COVID-19.
“For general COVID-19 questions, call the NC Division of Public Health at 1-866-468-3821. If you have traveled to an area with active COVID-19 in the last 14 days and are experiencing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider or New Hanover County Public Health at 910-798-3500. If you use an urgent care or walk-in clinic, call ahead so they can plan safety precautions during your visit,” according to the press release.
Q. Are there any local closures or impacts due to COVID-19?
A. Yes, several organizations and events have announced cancellations of events due to COVID-19.
- The Church Security Seminar scheduled for Saturday, March 14 at 8:30 a.m .has been canceled until a later date by the Wilmington Police Department.
- New Hanover County Regional Medical Center has updated it visitation policies. No visitors age 12 and under are permitted; Each patient is limited to two (2) adult visitors at a time; Do not visit if you have flu-like symptoms, including fever and cough, until 48 hours after your symptoms are gone; as always, please sanitize your hands often.
- According to UNCW, ‘As of March 9, the university will not be funding, sponsoring or supporting any non-essential university-related employee or student domestic travel. Vice-Chancellors, deans, and directors have the authority to determine whether proposed travel is essential.
- Novant hospitals, including Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, have announced additional visitor restrictions. “Nursing team members and the infection prevention team will work with extended families who have special circumstances, such as a critically ill or injured family member, on a case-by-case basis. Temporary visitor restrictions due to the flu virus outbreak for children age 12 and under remain in effect. These restrictions should not prevent anyone from seeking medical care,” according to a press release.
Q. Have schools been canceled?
A. Not in the Cape Fear region at the time of publication but school districts did offer some statements on possible closures. Local school districts do not have the independent authority to order a health-related closure, the directive would come from the state.
“Right now nothing is closed or changed for us. We are in const. comm. with local Pender Health Dept., and state Dept. of Health and Human Services. We’re going off what they say – if they say we need to close, shut down, we’ll do that. As of now, everything is on schedule and normal,” Alex Riley, Pender County Schools District public information officer said.
Q. Has anyone in the region been diagnosed with COVID-19?
A. At the time of publication, no, nobody in the area has been diagnosed however there have been several confirmed cases in North Carolina.
Q. Have there been any interruptions or restrictions placed on travel?
A. United Airlines has suspended all nonstop flights from ILM to Chicago, according to the Wilmington Business Journal. President Trump has also suspended travel to Europe for 30 days.
- Public health expert warns virus not going away – KSAT San Antonio
- Tesla asks employees to resume production at Fremont car plant despite coronavirus health orders – CNBC
- Major health groups and charities urge Trump to reverse World Health Organization funding decision – CNN
- Public health officials push back on May opening | TheHill – The Hill
- Analysis | The Health 202: Los Angeles is racing to discover the true coronavirus infection rate – The Washington Post
- Some Public Health Officials Not Releasing Coronavirus Hospitalizations : Shots – Health News – NPR
- Covid-19 health-care crisis could drive new developments in robotics, editorial says – The Washington Post
- Lost Your Health Insurance During the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are Your Options – The Motley Fool
- El Paso virus cases jump to 35 as health leaders warn of increased risk of ‘community spread’ – KVIA El Paso