COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

What you should know about the coronavirus!

Coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes the one that causes the common cold. Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel (new or unknown) coronavirus. As the number of cases grow across the US and in NC, it is important to be informed!New Guidance on Testing for COVID-19 - Update March 24, 2020

Individuals who believe they have COVID-19 symptoms and/or have been in close contact with a COVID positive individual should SELF-ISOLATE and CALL their healthcare provider, our Health Department at (252) 641-7511 or the state’s 24/7 hotline 1-866-462-3821 where you will receive guidance on next steps, which may include testing or self-monitoring.  

Do not just show up to a doctor's office, Health Department or the Emergency Room to be tested. Per CDC guidelines and regulations, testing is only for individuals who meet specific criteria set by the CDC: 1) symptomatic AND close contact with confirmed COVID positive individual; 2) symptomatic AND negative flu or RSV test AND clinical suspicion of COVID; or 3) symptomatic AND requiring hospitalization for serious medical needs. 

People who do not meet these criteria cannot be tested.  Visiting your doctor's office, the Health Department or the Emergency Room to be tested when you have no symptoms could increase your risk of exposure and put an unnecessary strain on resources for those who need them most.

The vast majority (80%) of people who contract COVID-19 will have mild to moderate disease and symptoms and can be managed at home, in isolation.  Most will not require hospitalization; symptoms are often mild enough that one can recover at home, which will help prevent the spread to others and allow hospitals to focus their resources on the critically ill. 

For emergent medical needs (ex: severe shortness of breath, severe dehydration, changes in mental status or other life-threatening conditions), calling 9-1-1 or going to your nearest emergency room is, of course, appropriate, but calling ahead is strongly encouraged if possible if you believe you have COVID-19 symptomsCalling ahead will help the EMS responders prepare and the emergency department route you through the appropriate entrance to reduce exposure to other patients and staff.

Read the following information from the Centers for Disease Control....

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Should I buy facemasks? The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Very Important Measures Issued by the NC Dept. of Health & Human Services March 12, 2020 

 As the number of cases of COVID-19 rise in North Carolina and the United States, and with the designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the state is responding with a whole government response. COVID-19 is a new infection that is particularly severe in older persons and those with medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and weakened immune systems.

At this time there are no approved treatments and no vaccine to prevent it. However, there are known methods to reduce and slow the spread of infection. Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes. Community-based interventions can also help slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes measures collectively known as “social distancing.” Social distancing measures aim to reduce the frequency of contact and increase physical distance between persons, thereby reducing the risks of person-to-person transmission. These measures are most effective when implemented early in an epidemic. We are at a critical inflection point where we may have the opportunity to slow the spread of this epidemic by taking proactive steps now.

NC DHHS is making the following recommendations to reduce the spread of infection while we are still in an early stage in order to protect lives and avoid strain on our health care system. NC DHHS is making these recommendations for the next 30 days and will re-assess at that point.

The following recommendations pertain to persons statewide.

If you need medical care and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you might have COVID-19, call ahead and tell your health care provider you have or may have COVID-19. This will allow them to take steps to keep other people from getting exposed. NC DHHS recommends that persons experiencing fever and cough should stay at home and not go out until their symptoms have completely resolved.

NC DHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home to the extent possible to decrease the chance of infection.

People at high risk include people:

  • Over 65 years of age, or
  • with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, or
  • with weakened immune systems.

NC DHHS recommends that all facilities that serve as residential establishments for high risk persons described above should restrict visitors.  Exceptions should include end of life care or other emergent situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit. If visitation is allowed, the visitor should be screened and restricted if they have a respiratory illness or potential exposure to COVID-19. Facilities are encouraged to implement social distancing measures and perform temperature and respiratory symptom screening of residents and staff. These establishments include settings such as nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correction facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

On March 14, 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order to close all k-12 schools for two weeks. Click here to read the executive order.

NC DHHS recommends that employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible, stagger work schedules, and consider canceling non-essential travel. Workplaces should hold larger meetings virtually, to the extent possible. Additionally, employers should arrange the workspace to optimize distance between employees, ideally at least six feet apart. Employers should urge high risk employees to stay home and urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.

NC DHHS recommends that organizers of events that draw more than 100 people should cancel, postpone, modify these events or offer online streaming services. These events include large gatherings where people are in close contact (less than 6 feet), for example concerts, conferences, sporting events, faith-based events and other large gatherings. As of Executive Order 117 issued March 14, 2020, mass gatherings (100 or more) are now prohibited.

Mass transit operators should maximize opportunities for cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. People should avoid using use mass transit (e.g. buses, trains) while sick.

For additional information and frequently asked questions pertaining to COVID-19 (coronavirus) please access the NC Department of Health & Human Services website at:

Important Links
Latest Press Releases from the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services
Older people & people with chronic diseases are at higher risk
How to keep your workplace, school and home safe
Johns Hopkins Interactive Tracking Map