ARHS confirms first COVID-19 case in northeastern NC

Published 5:40 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

ELIZABETH CITY – Albemarle Regional Health Services (ARHS) Health Director R. Battle Betts, Jr. has been notified of the region’s first lab confirmed case of COVID-19. The individual is a resident of Pasquotank County and is at home on isolation. This case was likely related to domestic travel; the patient was isolated when tested and advised to limit all contacts, and is at home recovering.

Public health, as a standard practice, investigates all reportable health conditions. ARHS will continue to trace contacts of lab confirmed cases to the extent possible, as long as staff can do so based on the spread of the virus in the area. This will be especially important in the most vulnerable populations like congregate living facilities.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has now announced there is community transmission of COVID-19 in the state. Therefore, health officials are moving from a strategy of containment to mitigation to help slow the spread of the virus. Recent steps taken to protect individuals and communities in order to prepare for this (i.e. social distancing, cancelling of mass gatherings, school closures, etc.), are even more important now in order to slow the spread of this illness, protect our most vulnerable population, and protect our health care infrastructure.

“Since we know COVID-19 is transmissible throughout our communities, much like seasonal flu and other viral respiratory illness, it is not necessary to do mass screenings. It is most important that people stay home if they are sick and follow local, state and federal guidelines for infection control to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Betts. “Most healthy individuals will be able to recover at home without needing medical care, and the vast majority will not need a lab test. We want to make sure that those needing medical care can get it – and we need our community’s help in making sure that can happen by taking this seriously. Public health measures can slow the transmission; we can flatten the infection curve.”

Additional testing within the home of a known positive is not clinically recommended, as anyone that is symptomatic in the home would be considered positive for the virus. Testing could create a false negative result (or false sense of security) as the incubation period for the virus varies and symptoms may not show up until later in the 14-day isolation period.

Due to the nature of community spread of this illness, it is most important for individuals to stay home when they are sick and limit all contacts as much as possible. However, ARHS and local providers are using guidance from the CDC and NC DHHS regarding screening for COVID-19. Criteria for COVID-19 testing includes a fever of 100.4 or greater, symptoms of a lower respiratory infection, including cough and difficulty breathing, a negative flu test and the healthcare provider’s recommendation.

Local health care providers and health departments are properly

Equipped to test needed individuals. When an individual is tested, they are to remain in isolation until a negative test result is received. If an individual receives a positive test result, they are to remain isolated until the following criteria are met:

At least 7 days since symptom onset and more than 72 hours after symptom resolution (absence of fever without the use of fever-reducing medication and improvement in respiratory symptoms), whichever is longer.

Absence of fever (without use of fever-reducing medication), improvement in respiratory symptoms, and 2 negative test results conducted on specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.

Currently, there are no vaccines or specific pharmaceutical treatments available for COVID-19. Public health interventions are and will continue to be an important tool to reduce transmission and prevent the spread of COVID-19. ARHS

ARHS is asking its community citizens to be vigilant in practicing preventive and safety measures that will help prevent the spread of the virus. These precautions include:

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.

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.

Practice social distancing; avoid handshakes, hugs and other close contact.

Further information about COIVD-19 can be found here:

Albemarle Regional Health Services –; North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services –; and the Center for Disease Control –


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal