COVID-19….don’t let your guard down

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It’s been nearly 24 months since this newspaper published its first story about the arrival of the novel (new) 2019 coronavirus.

That story was published Feb. 1, 2020 with the headline: “Test results negative for possible Coronavirus in North Carolina.” As we all know by now, that was the calm before the storm.

At that time we were aware that Coronavirus infections initially were diagnosed in Wuhan City, China and made their way to every corner of the globe.

A month later – March 4, 2020 – still without a confirmed case of the virus in our state, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had assembled a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Task Force to prepare for the possibility of infections occurring in North Carolina.

Three days later, the first positive case was identified in our state. That individual was from Wake County and traveled to the State of Washington where they were exposed at a long-term care facility.

A few days later, Gov. Cooper declared a State of Emergency due to the number of confirmed cases of the virus increasing across the state. At that time, the virus was thought to spread mainly from person-to-person….between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet); and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

On March 13, 2020, all high school athletic events across the state for public and private schools were suspended through at least April 6 (which was later extended for the remainder of the school year and into the 2020-21 sports seasons). Classrooms were closed as students transitioned to other forms of learning, to include online.

By March 17, Gov. Cooper issued an executive order to close sit-down service at all restaurants and bars.

Meanwhile, with the Governor barring gatherings of more than 100 people, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommending to cancel or postpone any gatherings consisting of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, local churches began looking for alternative ways to deliver God’s word.

Roughly one week later, Albemarle Regional Health Services (ARHS) Health Director R. Battle Betts, Jr. confirmed the region’s first lab confirmed case of COVID-19 in Pasquotank County. ARHS officials said the case was likely related to domestic travel; the patient was isolated when tested and advised to limit all contacts.

With COVID-19 spreading throughout the state – exceeding 400 confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. on March 24, 2020 – it was just a matter of time before the virus reared its head locally. On that date, public health officials in Northampton and Hertford counties each confirmed their first cases. That was followed one day later with the confirmation of three cases in Bertie County.

On April 4, 2020, this newspaper confirmed the first reported local death due to COVID-19 occurred in Bertie County. That same day came the news of the first confirmed case of the virus in Gates County.

From that point forward until Friday of last week (Jan. 7, 2022), the virus has claimed the lives of 225 residents of the Roanoke-Chowan area (Bertie, Gates, Hertford, and Northampton counties). To date there have been 10,707 lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our area since late March 2020.

Last week, yours truly and my wife were added to the local listing of confirmed cases.

For nearly 650 days, we had managed to avoid the COVID-19 virus entering our bodies. We had played it safe since March of 2020 and followed the close contact guidelines as well as adhering to the CDC suggestions for proper hygiene and wearing masks.

Fortunately we have managed to avoid the more severe Delta variant of the virus. Our doctor is fairly certain that we were infected with the Omicron variant. It’s highly contagious, but the symptoms are less severe….at least they were for me and my wife.

I felt like I had a head cold on steroids….a lot of sinus congestion, sinus pain, a low-grade fever, and a persistent cough. I did not lose my taste or smell. I had one really bad day (Jan. 1)…from there each day was an improvement. I followed my doctor’s suggestion to isolate for 10 days….returning to work on Monday, Jan. 10.

Deborah’s symptoms were somewhat similar to mine. She did mention that her taste was impacted. She also had bouts of nausea and was without her normal level of energy. She is scheduled to return to work on Thursday of this week following her 10-day quarantine.

My point here is it appears that despite being two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s still a lot to learn about the virus. I think we were all hoping – me included – that a vaccine would make it go away. That’s not the case….I’m vaccinated (two shots – one each in March and April last year) and the virus still found its way into my body. I know of people who received both doses of the vaccine and followed up with a recent booster shot and still got ill from the virus.

The vaccine has shown to lessen the severity of the virus…so that’s a good sign; something to build on. Properly wearing a mask also helps to prevent the spread of the virus….as does social distancing, washing your hands regularly, etc.

Hopefully, by following the guidelines – to include getting vaccinated if that’s your choice – we can get past this pandemic, but I believe this virus, much like the yearly strains of influenza, will remain. Until it’s proven otherwise, I suggest not letting your guard down.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

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