The first case of COVID-19 in North Carolina was announced on March 3, in a press conference that can be viewed here. A press release from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is available here.
Based on the patient’s recent travel history, public health officials believe that the case was acquired outside of North Carolina. At the time of this writing, there are no other known cases in the state, but it is certainly possible that additional cases could be discovered. Public heath officials have been preparing for the possibility of cases in our state since the outbreak was first reported in late 2019, and have developed essential information and resources for North Carolina local governments and the public.
For the latest developments in the outbreak, local governments and members of the public are encouraged to monitor reliable sources of information, especially the two primary sites for public health information about COVID-19 in North Carolina and the U.S.:
- N.C. Department of Health & Human Services, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Response in North Carolina
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Local health departments have access to more detailed information and specific guidance from the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Communicable Disease Branch. This information is frequently updated, so department staff should take care to ensure they have access to the most recent versions.
Local heath departments that identify suspected cases must immediately notify the state Communicable Disease Branch. This is required by NC disease reporting laws, as I explained in an earlier post. It also provides an opportunity to assure that the local health department has the most current information and guidance, as well as assistance in applying up-to-date guidance appropriately.
The School of Government is compiling resources about North Carolina communicable disease law and the COVID-19 outbreak on its North Carolina Public Health Law microsite. This direct link will take you to those resources. Because I have been receiving a number of questions about North Carolina isolation and quarantine law, the resources include free access to a 2017 book chapter that I wrote on that subject–click here for North Carolina Communicable Disease Law Chapter 6, Isolation and Quarantine Law. The chapter provides an overview of state law but is not specific to the current outbreak. (For more information about the book, or to order, click here.)
It is essential for local health departments and their attorneys to work closely with the state Communicable Disease Branch if they are considering isolation or quarantine for COVID-19. The Branch can assist a department and its attorney with assuring that the criteria for such measures has been met, and can provide template orders.
Local government officials and the public should expect information about the outbreak to change over time as the situation develops, and are encouraged to periodically check these resources for updates.