By Outer Banks Voice on July 2, 2020
In recent days, the language and tone of Dare County Health and Human Services Director Sheila Davies have gotten more urgent as local cases have surged dramatically. This following is the message she released on the cusp of the July 4 holiday, one which not only counseled against “irresponsible behavior,” but called out the “lack of cooperation” her team must deal with when trying to reach people for contact tracing.
As we head into the holiday weekend, I am very concerned about the potential for rampant spread of COVID-19 based on reckless and irresponsible behavior. The majority of our positive cases over the past 10 days have been the result of local spread. 27 cases are directly linked to spread that originated from individuals attending a large party, acquiring the virus and then spreading the virus to other friends and family members, one of whom is now hospitalized out of the area.
This virus remains highly contagious and very unpredictable. The hospital and urgent care centers are reporting that they are seeing a number of individuals who were originally asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic when they first tested now seeking medical care for worsening symptoms.
I remain very concerned that people may attend large gatherings over the holiday weekend and drop their guard for social distancing, wearing masks and using hand hygiene. Given the presence of the virus throughout our community this could lead to significant spread in the weeks ahead. I cannot stress enough how critically important it is to follow the guidance and NC Executive Orders. Do not host or attend indoor gatherings with more than 10 people or outdoor gatherings with more than 25 people. Maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet from individuals who you do not share a household with, wear a face covering if you cannot socially distance, and wash your hands frequently. THESE ARE ALL REALLY SIMPLE – PEOPLE JUST NEED TO BE RESPONSIBLE AND DO THEM!
This week we have experienced some disturbing and irresponsible behavior from individuals who are being called by our team members regarding isolation and quarantine. We are required to contact individuals who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or determined to be a direct contact of a laboratory confirmed positive case. This week our callers have been hung up on and spoken to inappropriately when they have called. Additionally, people have refused to cooperate, refused to provide critical information for contact tracing and indicated they will not comply with quarantine and isolation orders.
As a result of this lack of cooperation, I have had no other alternative than to issue isolation and quarantine orders to a number of individuals. A quarantine order is issued to someone who has been identified as a direct contact of a laboratory confirmed positive case and requires the individual to stay at home for a minimum of 14 days. An isolation order is issued to an individual who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and that individual must stay in isolation until otherwise directed by the health department based on the presence of symptoms or time in isolation.
If you receive a call from our department, please be honest and cooperative. We are not making these calls because we think it is fun or because we have nothing better to do. We are making these calls because they are critical pieces of trying to control the spread of the virus. Our contact tracing and quarantine and isolation monitoring efforts can only be as good as the information we are provided. Likewise, the rate of COVID-19 infection in our community will be directly linked to how responsibly people act.
I know the July 4th holiday celebrations will look different this year, but if we all act responsibly, we can at least help protect our community from the further spread of COVID-19.