BEAUFORT — As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 holds steady in Carteret County for the time being, public health officials have issued updated recommendations on who should get tested if they suspect they are sick with the disease.
Carteret County Health Director Stephanie Cannon gave an update on COVID-19 to the County Board of Commissioners during a special meeting Tuesday. The meeting took place in the superior courtroom of the administrative building in Beaufort with commissioners and audience members sitting at least 6 feet away from each other to abide by social distancing guidelines.
Ms. Cannon noted as of Monday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, following the lead of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has updated its recommendations on who should get tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In general, NCDHHS says those with mild symptoms should not get tested because doing so could expose themselves or others to the coronavirus.
“As of yesterday, there’s been significant changes to (health) provider guidance that we’re pushing out on behalf of the state to medical providers in Carteret County,” Ms. Cannon said Tuesday. “In general, the state recommends that people who have mild symptoms that are compatible with COVID-19, they’re recommended that they do not need testing.”
NCDHHS said since there is no known treatment for COVID-19, people with mild symptoms who don’t need medical care should simply self-isolate at home. With a limited number of testing kits available, the state said testing is most important for the seriously ill, in the hospital, people in high-risk settings like nursing homes and health care workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19.
People who are self-isolating, including those waiting on results from a test, should stay home and separate from other people in the home as much as possible. NCDHHS says you can stop self-isolating when all three of the following are true:
· It has been at least seven days since your first symptoms appeared.
· You have been without fever for three days (72 hours) without the help of fever-reducing medicine.
· Your other symptoms have improved.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever and cough but symptoms can vary person to person. The state health department recommends anyone with symptoms of respiratory illness stay home and self-isolate, even if they’re not sure they have COVID-19.
Ms. Cannon said people should still contact their doctor or the health department if they have mild symptoms of COVID-19, and the health department can provide guidance for self-isolating.
“If anyone has those symptoms, they need to call us at the health department and say ‘Hey I don’t need to be tested, I’m just going to stay at home,’” she said. “They can ask us about how long they should stay home in self-isolation, that’s something we’d be more than happy to help with.”
The state advises those at a higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19, like the elderly or the immunocompromised, should contact their doctor if they develop symptoms of fever or cough. Anyone who develops more serious symptoms, including shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, should seek medical care or call 911 right away.
Ms. Cannon also noted the CDC recently updated who is considered at-risk for developing complications from COVID-19. The most at-risk populations are people who:
· Are 65 years or older.
· Have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
· Have heart disease with complications.
· Have a compromised immune system.
· Are severely obese with body mass index of 40 or higher.
· Have other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including diabetes, renal failure, liver disease and others.
As of Monday, Ms. Cannon said the county health department is aware of 159 tests that have been sent to either the state lab or LabCorp for analysis. Of those, 59 have come back negative, five were positive and 95 are still pending.
Ms. Cannon said those with pending cases are being directed to self-isolate until their tests come back, and she expects the number of cases to rise in the coming days as more tests are returned.
Turnaround time to get test results varies on several factors and can range from as quickly as one day to up to seven or eight days.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.