COVID-19 proves fatal in Northampton

Published 6:32 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

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JACKSON – Confirmed cases of COVID-19 stand at 70 in Northampton County and now include one death.

On Friday, Andy Smith, the county’s health director, confirmed information sent mid-week regarding research performed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) that revealed a COVID-19 related death in Northampton.

That death, Smith said, occurred a few weeks ago.

“At that time the cause of death did not include a COVID diagnosis, and, in fact, the COVID test did not come back as positive until after the individual’s death. So the death was not initially reported as COVID-related,” the Northampton County Health Department stated in a Wednesday post on its Facebook page.

Smith told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on Friday that the testing performed in this particular case was done at another facility and several days passed before the results of that test were made known.

“The Northampton County Health Department offers its sincerest sympathy to the family of this case and for all families and individuals impacted by COVID illness,” the Facebook post added.

According to NCDHHS, a COVID-19-associated death is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness that was confirmed to be COVID-19 by an appropriate laboratory test. There should be no period of complete recovery between COVID-19 diagnosis and death. Based on this case definition and an investigation into the illness of the case patient, NCDHHS is classifying this event as a COVID-19 related death.

Meanwhile, Smith said the growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Northampton County is linked to a high volume of tests performed by the local health department. Since the initial outbreak of 28 cases near the end of March at a healthcare facility in the county and three individual cases (31 total as reported on March 31), Northampton has more than doubled that amount over the ensuing 18 days.

“We are aggressively testing; conducting more tests than other counties in our area of the state,” Smith said on Friday. “We have received a high number of requests to conduct tests for COVID-19. Many of those tests have come at the request of individuals who admitted being around individuals who earlier tested positive. With that said, the majority of our cases are from the community spread of the virus.”

Smith added that, “the overwhelming majority of our COVID cases are individuals who are asymptomatic, meaning they are infected with the virus but yet show none of its symptoms, and from those who are showing very mild symptoms for a couple of days.”

Research suggests that up to 25 percent of those who become infected with COVID-19 may not show symptoms. The high percentage of infected asymptomatic people could help explain the spread of this virus across the United States, according to Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That statement from Dr. Redfield is more the reason that Smith stresses the need for Northampton County residents who are ill to remain at home and not interact with others in their family or the general public for at least 14 days.

“I know that sounds like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, which is to protect public health, I highly recommend those having any type of COVID-type symptoms – to include fever, fatigue, sore throat, body aches, and a persistent, dry cough – to please stay at home,” Smith emphasized. “This virus is highly contagious and easily spread.”

Perhaps one positive sign that the spread may be slowing a bit in Northampton is the number of tests performed this week.

“We had a slow down this week on the number of tests we’re doing, maybe that a sign of better things to come,” Smith concluded.


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.

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