Rowan health director: County likely to see more positive COVID-19 cases

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 16, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County has not reached its COVID-19 case peak, Rowan Public Health Director Nina Oliver said during a live question and answer session on Wednesday.

That’s because residents continue to disregard directives to stay home and continue to be socially distant, Oliver said during the nearly hourlong session. The question and answer session was an opportunity for county officials to answer questions posed by citizens and clear up some misunderstood facts.

Oliver said there are several health care models that estimate when an area will reach its peak.

“I do think we have not reached our peak yet. I think we’re going to see more in the next couple of weeks,” Oliver said.

Since the stay-at-home order took effect at the end of March, Oliver said residents should start to see a flattening of the curve and a decrease in the eventual peak instead of a spike in positive cases.

“I really think it’s going to take a little while to see the impact. I also think if we loosen up social distancing too quickly we can see a resurge of cases again,” she said.

Oliver added that she would estimate that it would take another six weeks of social distance requirements in order to be effective. Though, that was not based on any particular health report, only her professional opinion.

“Remember, this is our only weapon. We don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have treatment,” Oliver said.

She said evidence from other countries and other states proves social distancing has resulted in fewer positive cases.

“It is so simple, yet so effective,” Oliver said.

The following are other answers to questions during the session:

• What exactly is the coronavirus?

Oliver said the virus is a living organism that must have a host to replicate. Different viruses and bacteria travel in different ways. For example, tuberculosis is airborne, meaning it can the illness can stay in the air and circulate for quite some time.

The coronavirus is thought to mostly live in droplets from spit, mucus or saliva that falls and lands on a surface. Depending on the surface, the virus can live for a few hours to 48 hours where it will stay and then die.

“That is why it’s important to clean your high touched surfaces. Clean at least once a day,” Oliver said.

• How is an investigation conducted regarding an outbreak or a COVID-19 positive case?

If the health department receives positive coronavirus test results, health officials would contact that person. They would then obtain a history via an interview that could last up to an hour and a half. During that time, health officials would contact that person and look at medical history, who they’ve been around and when they felt symptoms. The goal is to prevent additional cases and provide guidelines for what you need to do, be it quarantine.

What is the health department’s response concerning nursing homes and other similar facilities?

Any type of congregate facility that includes retirement homes, prisons or jails are a priority population. These locations cannot necessarily social distance, Oliver said. She said the health department provides the facility with the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, how to clean and other recommendations.

Plenty of people are testing positive but don’t know where they obtained the virus. Is this related to community spread?

Yes. Early on, cases were usually traveled-related. Now, the virus has latched on and it is community-acquired, Oliver said.

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