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Health director: One family gathering led to 41 COVID-19 cases

Health director: One family gathering led to 41 COVID-19 cases

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In Catawba County, we have seen a significant increase in the number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks. While it is true that testing has increased, the reality is this: more people are getting sick in Catawba County. This has been largely driven by the spread of COVID-19 from infected individuals, most of whom were not yet aware they were sick, to people they know.

Take, for example, a recent situation in Catawba County where more than two dozen people attended a family gathering. Folks did not wear masks or observe physical distancing at this gathering, and 14 people who attended subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Before they started to show symptoms, they continued with their daily lives, such as going to work or taking a beach trip with other families. This set into motion a person-to-person contact chain that to date has spread COVID-19 to 41 people in nine different families and eight different workplaces.

Situations like this have become painfully common in Catawba County. I share this example because I hope it can help our community see how easily COVID-19 is actively spreading. More importantly, I hope it will convince us all to be even more willing to do the small things we’re being asked to do to protect ourselves and others: wear a mask in public, maintain physical distance, and wash hands frequently.

It’s not hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19. What’s hard is having to call 20, 30, 40 people a day and tell them that not only are they sick with an untreatable illness, but they are also required to isolate themselves from others, including their loved ones, and stay home from work for two weeks or until they recover. This is especially difficult when they do not have the support systems that many of us take for granted, such as paid sick leave, the ability to isolate in their own home, or available caretakers for their children. It’s even harder when they are experiencing severe illness as a result of their exposure — exposure that could have been prevented.

Like you, I want nothing more than for COVID-19 and all its restrictions to go away as quickly as possible. Fortunately, we know what to do to help make this happen. The power to do it is literally in our hands.

More information about Catawba County’s COVID-19 response and recommended prevention measures is online at www.catawbacountync.gov.

Jennifer McCracken is Catawba County Public Health Director.

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