In North Carolina, there are currently 3,426 cases of COVID-19 in 90 counties. There have been 53 fatalities in NC associated with COVID-19. Currently, the state is reporting 386 hospitalizations across the state from COVID-19 illness.
To date, Dare County has reported ten positive test results for COVID-19. Of the ten individuals who have tested positive, 5 have completely recovered, 3 are asymptomatic (meaning they have not experienced any COVID-19 symptoms), 1 is recovering in isolation and 1 remains hospitalized out of the county.
Ongoing Preparedness Efforts
Many have asked questions about Dare County’s readiness in the event we begin to see a large increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. Across the nation, state, as well as in Dare County, agencies are taking all steps possible to address the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The Dare County Department of Health & Human Services Public Health Division’s epidemiology team composed of the health director, communicable disease nurse, clinical director, health education director, environmental health supervisor, communications specialist and several other key staff members has been meeting weekly, and some weeks daily, since the first week of February. The team also has weekly conference calls with the North Carolina State Epidemiologist Dr. Zach Moore to discuss various outbreak indicator models. The team continues planning and revising plans accordingly. Dare County is fortunate to have a very strong local epidemiology team as well as exceptional epidemiology support at the state level.
With this being a novel virus, there is constantly new information being learned about the virus and the guidance changes frequently. Local health officials meet daily with Dare County medical providers to ensure they are operating using the latest guidance.
There is also a very strong coordinated emergency response structure in place for this public health emergency and local health officials communicate daily with partners including emergency management, EMS, hospital, medical providers, schools, local governments, law enforcement, social services, and other key stakeholders. Since efforts began over three weeks ago, the Outer Banks Hospital leadership has been engaged with local public health leadership daily, if not more often, as actions are taken to meet the medical needs of the community while preparing for and responding to COVID cases.
Medical Surge Capacity
Across the state, North Carolina Emergency Management and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Medical Operations staff have taken actions to develop hospital surge capacity. Building that capacity includes identifying large facilities like convention centers/arenas around the state that are, or can be converted for use to provide hospital level care. The US Army Corps of Engineers along with the NC National Guard has been assessing sites across the state that could be used as medical surge facilities for patient overflow if the hospitals are filled.
Part of the state’s reasoning to build regional medical surge capacity is tied to the availability of critical medical equipment and personnel. While every community would like to see the deployment of a field hospital, that is not a possibility. Locally, plans are for patients with critical care needs to be moved to larger hospitals outside of the area. Even without COVID-19, most critically ill patients are transported to locations where they can receive the higher level of care they need. Our local hospital is a critical access hospital and is prepared to stabilize patients with critical health care needs and transport them to appropriate facilities. Those transports continue today and are being factored into the additional capacity being established in North Carolina.
Knowing there would be a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), local health officials have looked for sources of supply only to find them quickly taken away, as state and federal agencies work to fill shortfalls. On April 3, the state of North Carolina issued revised Guidelines for Allocation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Dare County Department of Health and Human Services is following those guidelines and conserving PPE by using practices established by the Centers for Disease Control and state public health officials.