By Kendall McGee | May 27, 2020 at 4:42 PM EDT – Updated May 27 at 7:02 PM
WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) – Columbus County continues to report the highest number of coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths in our part of eastern North Carolina.
Health leaders have been working nonstop since the pandemic began to educate people on how to slow the spread of the disease.
They’ve engaged with government leaders, businesses and community organizations, posted tips to social media, launched a COVID-19 call center and even put teams on the ground distributing flyers to grocery store patrons in an effort to reach the people of Columbus County.
As the number of people testing positive in Columbus County surpasses the 300 mark, the health department says the increased availability of testing is partly to blame for the rise. Its a trend that’s likely to continue over the coming weeks.
“I would expect to see more cases because we’re testing more and the testing is open to anyone who wants to be tested, so I think we will see more cases,” said Columbus County Health Director Kim Smith.
Smith says so far, they’ve already tested five percent of the county’s population.
Lately, health leaders say they’ve seen a shift in the origin of many of the virus cases; early on, many cases stemmed from congregate living facilities like nursing homes, but now reports show fewer cases are coming from those facilities and more positive tests are stemming from infected family members, workplace spread and gatherings like birthdays and graduation parties.
Despite the favorable trend, the health department has still been in daily contact with congregate living facilities and has used iPads to conduct digital walk-throughs, offering advice on how to prevent contamination and keep residents safe from the virus.
While the county recently came close to closing the book on one active outbreak, a positive test emerged last minute, ultimately resetting the clock.
It takes a full 28 days without a resident or staff member testing positive before the outbreak is declared over, according to the NCDHHS.
“Hopefully, it has peaked. Every now and then we still get someone who, for whatever reason, has to go to the hospital. Before they will admit a person to the hospital, they do a test and the patient could be positive. Gosh, Its been over a week, maybe two weeks since anyone was positive from any of the nursing homes,” said Smith.
As the state slowly begins to reopen restaurants, churches and stores, the warnings health workers have been trying for months to spread haven’t changed one bit.
“I would plead to each and everyone to please wear a face covering—wear a face mask, whether its homemade or a surgical mask. Stay the six feet of distance. Stay the social distance and make sure you wash your hands,” begged Smith. “The virus isn’t going anywhere. Its still here. It will be here until it dies out. The only way it dies out is if we stop spreading it.”
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