Watauga County resident tests presumptive positive for novel coronavirus

Moss Brennan, Reporter

AppHealthCare announced in a press release that a Watauga County resident has tested presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus, the first case in the county.

The person is in isolation at home and had travel history.

The person is a Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse staff member who had recently traveled overseas.

According to a press release from Samaritan’s Purse, the individual returned nine days ago from countries considered to be at lower risk at the time of travel. The employee did not return to work and self-quarantined immediately upon return home. The staff member has experienced some mild symptoms and is recovering without need for further medical intervention at this time. The employee was tested at their home by AppHealthCare.

“We are monitoring this situation continuously and will keep our employees informed accordingly,” Samaritan’s Purse said in a statement. “We began to restrict travel at the onset of this virus in accordance with guidelines established by CDC and World Health Organization and continue to tighten policies as new directives are issued. In accordance with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s directive, we are discontinuing gatherings of more than 100 people.

The statewide count is now at 32, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

A presumptive positive is a positive COVID-19 test that must still be confirmed by another testing laboratory. A confirmed positive case means the test has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab.

“We have been preparing should we see a positive case of COVID-19 in our community. Now that we have a positive case, we will continue to work diligently to protect the public’s health. It is our top priority, and we will work to keep the community informed,” said Health Director at AppHealthCare in a press release.

The company also said effective immediately, Samaritan’s Purse will reduce the number of staff on the Boone headquarters and Wilkes campuses and moving many employees to a work-from-home status for at least the next two weeks.

AppHealthCare said it is working closely with local partners and agencies to ensure the public’s health is protected and precautions are taken to protect residents of Watauga County.

“We are confident in public health’s ability to lead this effort and appreciate their partnership with Watauga County and other local agencies to protect our community’s health,” Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque said in a press release.

AppHealthCare gave five steps on how to protect yourself:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Staying home when you’re sick
  • Keeping distance from others who are sick
  • Avoiding touching your face
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, light switches, tables and handles

“We want to continue to encourage the community to not use the hospital emergency room unless it is a true emergency. We need to preserve our local hospital capacity to respond throughout this event to meet the various healthcare needs that require urgent action in our community,” Greene said.

This is a developing story. More information will be added once it is confirmed.