SPRUCE PINE – “Please stay home.”
That three-word phrase was the best piece of advice Toe River Health District Director Diane Creek said she could offer about combating the ongoing coronavirus threat.
There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mitchell, Yancey or Avery counties as of Monday, March 23, at press time. Thirty-seven tests had been conducted in Mitchell, half of which were pending and the other had provided a negative result.
According to Creek, that won’t last.
“It’s inevitable,” she said. “We’re surrounded. It’s in Tennessee. It’s in Watauga. It’s in Buncombe. It’s just a matter of time.”
If Mitchell county gets a positive case of the virus, that person will be put into quarantine and tracked by the health department, Creek told the News-Journal. If a person tests positive and refuses to be quarantined, she has the authority to write an order to isolate that person, which is enforceable by the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Department.
“People don’t need to worry about a person having a choice about quarantine,” she said. “They don’t have a choice. If your test result is positive, you will be quarantined.”
To protect yourself from the virus, Creek said people should wash their hands regularly, refrain from touching their faces, clean hard surfaces and practice social distancing, which is staying six feet apart from others in public places.
People who are not taking these precautionary steps are putting others at risk, Creek said.
“If you have it and you go out to the grocery store, you’re infecting everyone at that store,” she said. “You have to think about the people over 65 and the people with compromised immune systems. That might be your mom and dad or your grandfather and grandmother. You need to think about other people.”
Symptoms of the virus include a fever, a dry cough and exhaustion. Because tests are limited, if anyone with mild symptoms should stay home and self-quarantine, Creek said. People who have worse symptoms might end up being hospitalized, and “it’s not going to take a lot to overwhelm the hospitals,” she said.
“I don’t want people to be afraid,” Creek said. “They have control. This is a serious threat, but if you stay home, the coronavirus will not come into your home.”
Follow the Mitchell County Health Department Facebook page for updates about the coronavirus threat. The Mitchell News-Journal will be providing free access at www.mitchellnews.com to all coronavirus-related stories and will provide updates throughout the week on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mitchellnewsjournal.