By Imari Scarbrough, originally published by Carolina Public Press. Carolina Public Press is an independent, in-depth and investigative nonprofit news service for North Carolina.
COVID-19, also known as the new coronavirus, is a highly contagious illness that is spreading around the world in early 2020.
While the virus, which first emerged in the Wuhan province of China, causes potentially life-threatening respiratory failure in some who contract the disease, in others the symptoms of this disease can be mild.
Despite efforts to contain the virus, it has spread to the United States, with multiple cases of the new coronavirus in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper announced the first case last week and declared a state of emergency on Tuesday.
The disease’s threat is not only to public health but also to economic stability and quality of life. Panicked reactions and spreading or listening to rumors about the illness can do more harm than good, public health experts warn. A calm and reasonable response, equipped with good information is the smartest strategy.
To help with this, Carolina Public Press is providing the following resource guide, with basic information and guidelines about where to find more information. This guide will be updated and expanded with new information while the COVID-19 crisis persists.
Basic public health information for COVID-19
COVID-19 is spread by direct contact with someone who has the illness or by touching a surface an infected person has touched. This includes having someone directly sneeze or cough on you, but at this point, the new coronavirus has not been found to spread through the air without such direct contact.
Medical experts are recommending the same sorts of precautions that people should take during flu season, including washing hands with soap and water. The virus is believed to pose a more serious threat to the elderly and those with vulnerable immune systems, who should take additional precautions.
An important difference from the flu is that there is currently no shot to improve odds against contracting COVID-19, and medical experts do not expect a vaccine to be available for some time.
As of Wednesday, March 10, North Carolina officials reported seven confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in North Carolina. But because COVID-19 can take several days to develop and show symptoms, it’s difficult to know how many more people may have been exposed.
For more information about the virus and basic prevention, these links may be helpful:
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services:
- COVID-19 cases in North Carolina
- Guidance to North Carolina families
- How North Carolina is responding to COVID-19
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Medical organizations and facilities
COVID-19’s spread and the public’s response to it have the ability to challenge the resources and organizational limits of medical institutions, but many of them, including those in North Carolina, have been preparing for some time.
The following links provide information on or from specific medical institutions. However, many others not listed here may have information important in your area on their individual websites.
Duke has a page with tips on preparing for and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Included are tips on what to do in the event of a power loss when medications need to be kept chilled and getting extra oxygen canisters for those who need them. The page also has checklists for medical and emergency supplies.
Mission Health currently provides general information about COVID-19 on its website but may have information specific for its Western North Carolina customer base as the situation progresses.
Wake Forest Baptist Health
Wake Forest Baptist Health is maintaining a page with information on the coronavirus.
The page includes a video from Dr. Kevin High, president of Wake Forest Baptist Health, with information about how Wake Forest is readying itself for the new coronavirus, links to information from the CDC, an FAQ list, and a “COVID-19 Myths vs. Facts” guide.
- UNC Health has a page with information, an FAQ list and a 24/7 help line.
UNC Health Sciences Library COVID-19 (coronavirus) resources – a large collection of resources with top and recent news, UNC information, supplies information, etc.
John Hopkins University School of Medicine
- Coronavirus Resource Center
- Map tracking global cases, fatalities and recoveries
- Daily updates and tips on COVID-19
Education and COVID-19
Concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 have led to schedule changes and event cancellations at many schools, colleges and universities.
The University of North Carolina System has posted a page with the latest updates on its response to COVID-19.
Late Wednesday, Duke University announced plans to suspend on-campus classes and transition to video instruction rather than have students return from spring break. For other private colleges, check with the individual school.
Local school systems have reacted in a wide range of ways to the spread of the virus. For instance, Union County Public Schools has canceled upcoming international field trips. Asheville City schools have prepared at-home work packets in case students need to be away from class for an extended period.
For information about your individual school system or private school, check directly with the schools.
Airports and COVID-19
Because COVID-19 has spread into the United States from other countries in recent weeks, airports are a special point of interest in checking the spread of the new coronavirus in North Carolina.
Several North Carolina airports have posted information on COVID-19 as it relates to their operations:
Religious organizations and COVID-19
Catholic Diocese of Raleigh
The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh published a page with advice for those questioning participation in religious practices as coronavirus fears spread.
Catholic Diocese of Charlotte
On March 3, WSOC-TV reported that the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte has asked parishioners to avoid shaking hands or using a communal chalice for communion.
For information on additional North Carolina religious organizations and meetings, check with their local websites.