2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Burke County now has 13 positive cases of COVID-19, with additional cases at a local nursing home.

Burke County Health Director Rebecca McLeod was notified Friday of four additional positive cases of COVID-19, which brings the total cases to 13 in Burke County, according to information from the county. The cases consist of both traveling and community spread, the information said.

Five of the cases are associated with a long-term care facility and all those positives are isolated, said Lisa Moore, public information officer for Burke County. She confirmed Thursday night that two of the cases are at Grace Heights Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Moore said Friday that to the knowledge of county health officials, of the 13 positive cases, two are hospitalized.

Public Health staff continues to investigate the cases and will be locating those close contacts to help contain the spread of the infection, Moore said.

Catawba County on Friday reported its first COVID-19-associated death.

The person was hospitalized and later died on March 30 from complications associated with the virus, according to a release from Catawba County. Public Health was notified of the test result Friday. The patient was in their early 70s and had underlying medical conditions. The person did not reside at a senior living facility, the release said.

"We extend our deepest condolences to this person’s loved ones. This is news no one wants to hear," said Catawba County Health Director Jennifer McCracken. "This death is an unfortunate milestone in our efforts to fight this disease, and one that none of us ever wanted to see.”

Catawba County also reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the county’s total number of residents who have tested positive to 20. The county has had 296 negative test results returned.

The county said the total case number is based on COVID-19 test results. However, not all cases of COVID-19 are tested, so this does not represent the total number of people who have or had COVID-19, according to its release.

Caldwell County reported two additional positive cases on Friday, bringing its total to five positive cases. Three of the positive cases are located in the 28645 zip code and two are located in the 28638 zip code. It has conducted 684 tests, with 296 negative tests, according to information from the county.

Officials in Caldwell County said at this time, it can take up to 10 business days to receive results of a COVID-19 test.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday there have been 19 deaths associated with COVID-19, with 2,093 positive cases of the virus in the state and 31,598 tests completed. The department reported Friday 259 people are hospitalized in the state due to the virus.

While the majority of positive cases - 43 percent - reported in the state between ages 25-49, the overwhelming majority of the 19 deaths reported - 79 percent - are those 65 years old or older.

Local and state officials are asking the public to heed Gov. Roy Cooper’s Stay-At-Home order to prevent the spread of the novel virus. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.

Burke County also is asking businesses that are not determined to be essential to adhere to the governor’s order so the county can reduce the spread of the virus to those most at risk within the community.

“Since this virus is now spreading in the community, it is extremely important to follow the Governor’s Stay at Home Executive Order for the next 30 days and only be out to pick up essential items and when out make sure to take proper precautions such as social distancing and hand washing to help reduce the spread of this virus,” a release from Burke County on Friday said.

Health officials also say people should wash their hands often, especially after going to stores or touching objects or surfaces that others have touched. Officials recommend washing for 20 seconds and sing a song while doing so and to use hand sanitizer if there is no access to soap and water.

Health officials also are warning people not to congregate anywhere to help reduce the spread of the virus within the community.

Gov. Cooper on Friday urged retail stores to make sure employees are at a safe distance and to limit the number of people they allow in the store at the same time. He also urged people to ask themselves whether they really need to go to the store.

Mike Sprayberry, director of North Carolina Emergency Management, said Friday that state and federal officials are conducting searches for facilities across the state that can hold patients when hospital beds run out.

Sprayberry said on Thursday that the state has made a request to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to activate a non-congregant sheltering program to provide thousands of rooms for people affected by COVID-19. As of Thursday, the request and had not been approved, he said.

Sprayberry said it would provide isolation rooms in hotels, dormitories or other buildings for people who have been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19 but who don’t need to be hospitalized. The program would take pressure off of hospitals and allow those affected to get the care they need, Sprayberry said.

Burke County Emergency Management Director Mike Willis said the state told him they would notify Burke County if that happens, and while there is no time-frame of if or when that might happen, the state said it will give as much notice as possible if it does.

Burke County has set up a public information line that is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anyone with questions about COVID-19 can call 828-764-9388. For after hours questions, call the NC Public Information line at 1-866-462-3821.

Visit the Burke County COVID-19 webpage at www.burkenc.org/COVID-19.

People having a medical emergency should call 9-1-1 and inform the dispatcher that you have symptoms listed for COVID-19.

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