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NC Coronavirus Update: Be Prepared Not Panicked

Novel Coronavirus

North Carolina health and public safety officials jumped ahead of President Trump’s news conference to update the state’s coronavirus preparedness efforts.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports

The resounding message from North Carolina health director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, there are no cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, but Tilson says officials are on high alert,

“A lot of our activity at this point is making sure providers and people and travelers know what to do,” says Tilson.  “So if people have traveled from China or have been in contact with somebody and then have symptoms then we would really want that person to tell their healthcare provider or local health department about their symptoms and  we would work with the local health department or the CDC to decide if we would need testing and what we would need to put into place.:

Tilson says the state checks in with local health departments every week and when asked about the face mask buying spree, she advised against -  but did encourage the public to take smart steps  like having a plan to work at home -  just in case.  I’m Helen Chickering, BPR News.

More information from  the Centers for Disease Control and Governor Roy Cooper's Coronavirus Disease Task Force: 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)has indicated that Americans should be anticipating and preparing for the possibility of widespread COVID-19 in the United States. Since late January, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and NC Emergency Management (NCEM) have been operating a team to coordinate efforts around the state’s response. In early February, Governor Cooper formalized this effort with the creation of the COVID-19 Task Force.
The following are common-sense measures all North Carolinians can take to prepare for potential widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the state:
Individuals, Families and Communities
NCDHHS recommends everyone continue taking precautions to protect themselves and others from the spread of respiratory illnesses, which includes COVID-19.
Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and for at least 20 seconds each time.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.
It is also good practice to start being more aware of the number of times a day your hands touch an object or hard surface and then touch your face without being washed. Limiting the exposure of your nose, mouth and eyes to unwashed hands can help to protect from the spread of all germs and illnesses.
Have a plan in case you need to miss work or other responsibilities due to personal illness or to care for a sick family member.
For pregnant women and children, review the information and guidance available on the CDC website.
Businesses and Employers
Practice good hand hygiene and encourage your employees and patrons to take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from the spread of respiratory illnesses.
Review your policies and procedures for remote or teleworking where possible.
Cross-train employees for key functions so that daily schedules can continue relatively uninterrupted by potential employee absences.
Review absenteeism policies to make sure employees are not being encouraged to come to work if they are sick.
If you have not already, establish a relationship with your local health department and communicate with them if you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19.
Look for more updates and guidance for businesses available on the CDC website.
Health Care Providers and Hospitals
Review policies and procedures for infection prevention and mitigation, and make sure that all employees are aware of and following the appropriate steps.
Consider how to maximize the use of telemedicine, nurse triage lines and other options to prevent sick people from coming to clinics and emergency rooms if they have mild illness and do not need treatment.
Continue implementing the NCDHHS and CDC guidance for COVID-19 and continue working closely with your local health department and NCDHHS.
Look for more updates and information for health care professionals on the CDC website.
College, Universities, K-12 Schools and Child Care Facilities
Make sure all students, faculty and staff are aware of and practicing good hand hygiene and taking common-sense precautions to protect from the spread of respiratory illnesses.
Review absenteeism policies and procedures to make sure students or children, faculty and staff are not being encouraged to attend or work if they are sick.
If you have not already, establish a relationship with your local health department and communicate with them if you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19.
Learn more about COVID-19 on the CDC website, and look for updates and information for schools, colleges and childcare.
No one group, ethnicity or population in the US is at a higher risk for acquiring COVID-19 infection than others. While some people may be worried or have concerns about COVID-19, it is important to not let fear and anxiety lead to social stigma towards friends, neighbors or members of the community. Treat all people with compassion and speak up if you hear others making statements that cause stigma against people in your community.
All North Carolinians can better prepare for COVID-19 by getting up-to-date information directly from reliable sources like NCDHHS and the CDC. The COVID-19 outbreak has been accompanied by a global flood of misinformation from unreliable sources. Be thoughtful about what you read or hear about the virus and make sure you are separating rumor from fact before you act.  
For more information on COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s website at cdc.gov/coronavirus. North Carolina resources can be found on the Division of Public Health website at ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. 
If you have questions or concerns, call the COVID-19 Helpline toll free at 1-866-462-3821. To submit questions online, go to www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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