Two people have died from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state where more than 500 cases had been reported as of Wednesday morning, according to a release from the governor's office.
The number of cases in local counties continues to rise as well.
A person from Cabarrus County died on Tuesday from complications associated with the virus. The patient was in their late 70s and had several underlying medical conditions, according to the release from Gov. Roy Cooper. A second person in their 60s, from Virginia who was traveling through North Carolina also died from COVID-19 complications.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones. This is a stark warning that for some people COVID-19 is a serious illness," Cooper said. "All of us must do our part to stop the spread by staying at home as much as possible and practicing social distancing.”
The available information as it relates to COVID-19 is changing almost as quickly as a health officials can provide it to the public. And Harnett County officials are no different.
On Tuesday, the Harnett County Department of Health released an information sheet with the latest of those guidelines.
As of Wednesday morning, Harnett County reported 10 confirmed cases, that's up from nine on Monday.
Johnston County reported eight cases Wednesday, up from three on Friday.
Sampson and Lee Counties are holding with one case each.
Cumberland County has reported three cases confirmed while Moore County is now at two cases. Fort Bragg cases are being counted separately.
Meckelenburg County is still the epicenter of cases in North Carolina with 142 of the reported 509 cases in the state. Meanwhile Durham County is third with 70 confirmed cases and Wake County is next with 67.
Those numbers were the results of 10,489 tests conducted as of Wednesday.
Harnett County Health Director John Rouse said following the guidelines will help create a major step toward moving past the virus and the effect it has had on society at the local, state and national levels. Included in the update guidelines is a change in who should be tested for the virus.
Most people no longer need to be tested, the logic behind this change comes in what it actually takes to get tested, public health officials say. If some leaves their home or place of self-quarantine, exposure to the virus is possible if you don't already have the virus. There's also a chance, if you are positive, you could transmit it to someone who isn't sick. And even more importantly, you could give it to someone who falls in the high risk group.
Rouse said testing should be done only on people who are experiencing sever symptoms. Those with minor symptoms should revert to self-isolation and act as though it were any other viral illness, such as the flu.
“We're encouraging folks that have the mild symptoms to stay home,” Rouse said. “If you're sick and it's severe enough and you would see your doctor, if that's what you traditionally do, call your doctor and try to get an appointment and be seen.”
The new guidelines also include an updated list of those in the high risk category. They now include residents 65 years and older, residents living in a nursing home or long-term care facility and those who have a high risk condition.
Those conditions include chronic lung disease or moderate to sever asthma, heart disease with complications, compromised immune systems, severe obesity – which means a body mass index of 40 or higher and other underlying medical conditions, particularly if they are not well controlled. They include diabetes, renal failure or liver disease.
There is still a caveat for expectant mothers included in the latest guidelines. It calls for women who are pregnant to be monitored since they are known to be at risk for severe viral illness. However, according to health officials, to date, data on the virus has not shown an increased risk in pregnant women for severe illness.
“There's some folks, and this is a good thing, that don't have to be treated by a medical professional,” Rouse said. “There's a certain part of the population that can get sick with COVID-19, and not have to be treated.”
The new guidelines are available online by visiting the Harnett County Department of Health website at harnett.org/publicinfo/covid19-prevention.asp or on the Harnett County government Facebook page.
Rick Curl can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2037.