Haywood County public health nurses are available to answer COVID-19 questions via a call center starting Wednesday, March 25, said public health director Patrick Johnson.

To speak with a public health nurse, dial the local call center at 828-356-2019, available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. The state also has a 24-hour North Carolina Coronavirus Helpline at 866-462-3821.

More tests

While a new coronavirus carrying the disease COVID-19 continues to spread across the nation, the number of tests in Haywood County continue to increase.

As of noon Tuesday, March 24, a total of 75 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in Haywood County, with 24 negative results returned, Johnson said. The other 51 tests are still awaiting results.

“We should expect to have our first case in Haywood County soon,” Johnson said. “The Haywood County Health Department will enforce isolation, perform contact tracing and follow-up for each positive COVID case in order to protect the health of our residents.”

The number of COVID-19 cases in Western North Carolina is rising, with eight confirmed in Buncombe County, four in Cherokee County, two in Henderson County and one each in Transylvania and Jackson counties, current as of March 24.

Mitigation intensifies

“Community transmission is already occurring in Western North Carolina,” Johnson said. “Therefore, we are moving to a different phase of our response efforts and will be further increasing our population-based community mitigation strategies.”

The goal of mitigation is to decrease spread of the virus among residents and healthcare workers, especially among those who are at highest risk of clinical severity. The idea is to reduce the number of people that need medical care all at once, Johnson said.

The best mitigation method remains social distancing.

“COVID-19 has just one enemy — social distancing,” Johnson’s email said. “We’ve all heard the message and are probably tired of hearing the message, but it’s important to not get social distancing fatigue.”

Testing regs still changing

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is now recommending that only people who are experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms should be tested, Johnson said.

Severe symptoms include fever and cough with shortness of breath. Anyone with mild symptoms that do not include shortness of breath should not seek testing and instead staying at home to recover, Johnson said.

“We wish it wasn’t this way, but it is,” Johnson said. “Your understanding is much appreciated by everyone having to make difficult choices.”

Currently, it takes between four and five days to get test results.

“I’m repeating this topic because it bears repeating,” Johnson said. “We’re concerned about substance use, mental health and suicide during this crisis.”

Anyone having suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Further resources from the health department and county government are available at www.themountaineer.com.

The CDC and state health department have up-to-date information about coronavirus on their websites, and more local news will be posted here as it becomes available.

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