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Bertie EMS employee tests positive for COVID-19

WINDSOR – One employee with Bertie Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has tested positive for COVID-19 while four others are quarantined after all five were involved with transporting a patient earlier this month.

The infected employee, currently in isolation at their residence, has not been to work since May 7, according to Bertie County Manager Juan Vaughan, II. That individual began to experience symptoms synonymous with COVID-19 this past Saturday (May 16), including body aches and chills, which prompted them to seek testing.

Since testing positive, the employee has also experienced loss of smell and taste, as well as persistent cough and occasional runny nose.

Vaughan said the employee was “doing well” during their isolation at home.

Bertie Emergency Management Director Mitch Cooper told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that the county’s EMS workers have been involved in multiple calls that has led them to be tested for the virus.

“Just like any front line medical workers, we’re not immune to this virus,” Cooper said. “We’ve followed all the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines and subsequent updates as to how to properly use the PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). We strive to protect our workers and our patients. So far we’ve only had one employee to test positive for COVID-19. Based on the risks we face daily, that number could be a lot higher.”

Cooper added that the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for the four other EMS employees ends on Thursday (May 21).

“Of our group who responded to that one particular call, only one later tested positive,” Cooper stressed, “but all five were required to immediately isolate themselves for 14 days. Four of them never showed any symptoms of the virus.”

“The safety and privacy of our staff is one of our top priorities. We are working collaboratively with Bertie County Emergency Services and our local healthcare partner, Albemarle Regional Health Services, to ensure the continued health of our staff and our citizens,” Vaughan stated.

“We were prepared for this possibility, and as a Board we are incredibly grateful to our staff for their hard work and dedication during such uncertain times. Our thoughts and prayers are with this employee, as well as with all of those still stricken with this virus,” stated Ronald Wesson, Chairman of the Bertie Commissioners.

As of Tuesday, Bertie continued to show a steep increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases over the past few days. The count stood at 95 on May 19, up from 74 on May 15. One week prior (May 8), Bertie was reporting 58 cases.

As for the current number of cases, most are in the Windsor (47), Colerain (19) and Aulander (11) areas.

“This is a case of community spread,” Cooper said, referencing the county’s increase in the number of positive cases. “We urge our citizens and our guests to follow all the CDC guidelines….stand six feet apart, wear a facemask in public places, and wash your hands frequently.

“Please protect yourself, your family, your neighbors and even total strangers,” Cooper continued. “Our county is considered a high risk area because 35 percent of our population is considered high risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19 and similar illnesses. That percentage includes individuals that are ages 65+ with disabilities and/or who have pre-existing health conditions.”

For the most up to date information about the Coronavirus, visit CDC.org, NCDHHS.gov, as well as follow all respective social media accounts including the official Facebook page for Bertie County Government.

Media inquiries may be relayed to Emergency Services Director, Mitch Cooper, at 794-5302 or mitch.cooper@bertie.nc.gov.

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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