Health Dept. reaching out to patient's close contacts

Health Director urges people with minor symptoms to hold off on testing

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Now that Person County has recorded its first case of the COVID-19 disease, public health officials are busy notifying people who have been in contact with the patient.

Public Health Director Janet Clayton said Wednesday morning that healthcare workers have interviewed the patient to get a sense of where the person had been and with whom the person had what they call close contact.

"We contact those individuals and alert them," Clayton said. " All citizens are encouraged to continue social distancing, good hand and cough hygiene, and staying at home."

A close contact is considered to be someone who has been within six feet of the patient for more than 10 minutes.

Clayton said patients are feeling well enough are able to stay at home. "They can stay in a bedroom and, hopefully, there is a bathroom they can use that no one else is using," Clayton said.

A bigger concern for Person  County Health Department is the run they have seen on doctor's offices and Person Memorial Hospital by people who want to be tested for the coronavirus.

People with minor symptoms do not need to get tested," Clayton said. "They flooding our doctor's offices and ED right now."

Testing people who don't have full blown symptoms put a strain on the testing resources available in the county, but Clayton said other supplies are in good order. For now.

"People with mild symptoms, fever and cough without shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, altered thinking, and cyanosis, do not need testing and should remain at home to recover," Clayton said. "Testing should be for those who have more severe symptoms in order to conserve testing supplies and more importantly PPE for the medical personnel in county, including the hospital and EMS. "

Person Memorial Hospital made a plea this morning for people who have any of the masks or other protective equipment to consider donating it to the hospital.

Clayton said the Emergency Operations Committee has not yet had any conversations about enacting Shelter-at-home rulles as other counties and municipalities are doing. County commissioners would actually have to make that ruling if health officials recommend it.

On Tuesday, Person County Manager Heidi York took part in a conference call involving county clerks, county commissioners from across the state, county managers and Gov. Roy Cooper.

"The Governor said he wanted the local jurisdiction to make such calls in their own communities.

"At this point, most of the counties and cities that are doing this are the larger jurisdictions with larger urban populations. Yesterday, when we on that call, we didn't have a case in Person County so at this point we aren't talking about it. The numbers just aren't showing the need," York said.

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