BOLIVIA, N.C. – Over the past few months, Brunswick County Health Services has answered a lot of questions about the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our county. To continue to educate and inform the public, the County is launching a new COVID-19 dashboard to provide an easy-to-use display of the latest case count statistics among residents.
Health Services began reporting on the number of positive cases it identified in mid-March. Since then, the team has expanded its daily reporting to include key demographic data like age, race and ethnicity—helping provide a clearer picture about which residents are the most affected.
Over the past few weeks, the County has worked to conceptualize and build the new dashboard to support Health Services’ response to the pandemic and address questions about the growing case counts.
“Some of the trends we’re watching closely at this time are the increase in cases among those aged 25 to 49 years and the percent of positive cases among those in the Hispanic/Latinx community,” Health Services Director Cris Harrelson said. “We want the public to understand and see the trends as we do, so we can better communicate with those in these demographic areas and get them access to the resources they need most.”
As more positive cases of COVID-19 are identified in the county, the County’s COVID-19 dashboard will also help Health Services track emerging trends in case demographics and where to focus mitigation efforts. Two areas of interest among the public also include the increase in cases over time related to case status (e.g., isolated, recovered, etc.) and age group.
Health Services has already reacted in response to some of these findings, such as working with health practices in the county to expand testing sites and offer free testing for uninsured individuals. More information about sites screening for COVID-19 tests for both insured and uninsured individuals is at https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/health/coronavirus/testing/
As cases continue to rise, Health Services is focusing its data analysis on identified positive cases among residents. This is primarily due to the fact that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) only requires primary medical providers to report positive cases back to county health departments, which means there is likely an underreporting of negative test results back to the county level.
“We have been committed to transparently providing our case count data to the public since the pandemic began to take full effect in our state and region,” Health and Human Services Director David Stanley said. “As more cases are identified, we are looking at ways to streamline the process to further illustrate trends in our data to both our staff and the public. This dashboard allows us to continue to fulfill that mission.”
The NCDHHS COVID-19 dashboard is also a useful resource for individuals as the state has access to additional data at the county level, including the percentage of positive cases among total tests conducted in each county on a weekly basis.
At this time, Governor Roy Cooper and leadership at the NCDHHS are using statewide data concerning testing, tracing and other trends related to COVID-19 to make decisions concerning the lifting of restrictions statewide. Brunswick County has not issued additional restrictions beyond what is required in the Governor’s executive orders concerning COVID-19. Individuals are encouraged to visit their municipality’s website or reach out to their town or city to see if additional restrictions are in place within their jurisdiction.
Health Services has also provided information concerning non-resident individuals who receive positive test results for COVID-19 while visiting the county. These numbers are not reflected in the COVID-19 dashboard, which focuses on county resident positive cases only. Health Services will continue to provide information on non-resident cases when reports are received on the Latest Information on Coronavirus webpage as it has been presented in the past.
TESTING AND CONTACT TRACING EFFORTS
Health Services is continuing to encourage individuals to watch for symptoms of COVID-19, but also to take simple steps like wearing a cloth face covering, avoiding places where crowds can gather, and keeping six feet of distance from others when in public to prevent further spread—especially in case an individual is unknowingly carrying the virus and does not have symptoms of COVID-19.
North Carolina is focused on rapidly increasing testing of people who may not currently have symptoms, but may have been exposed to COVID-19. NCDHHS released updated guidance for doctors and clinicians on who should be tested for COVID-19. See the latest testing guidance on the NCDHHS website to help determine if you should receive a test.
Free, online tools are also available to help people determine if they should get a test and how to find a testing site:
- Check My Symptoms (ncdhhs.gov/symptoms), a public website that allows people to enter their symptoms to determine if they should consider getting tested for COVID-19. If a test is recommended, they will receive a link to a list of nearby testing sites via email or text.
- Find My Testing Place (ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace), a public website that allows people to enter their county or ZIP code and access a list of nearby testing site locations online.
Additionally, Health Services nurses who are also managing contact tracing efforts for positive cases are using the statewide COVID-19 Community Team Outreach Tool to help people track their symptoms if they have been advised to do so.
Through contact tracing, the COVID-19 Community Team reaches out to people who may have recently come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and connects them with the information and support needed to protect themselves and their loved ones.
It is important that people answer the call when the Community Team reaches out. Individuals being contacted will get an initial text from the number 45394 or email from NC-ARIAS-NoReply@dhhs.nc.gov with follow-up phone calls from Brunswick County Health Services at 910.253.2250 or from NC OUTREACH (844-628-7223).
The Community Team will never ask for anyone’s Social Security Number, bank or credit card numbers, or any other financial information at any time. Any information shared during the call is a private health record and is strictly confidential.
SAFER AT HOME PHASE 2 AND MITIGATION EFFORTS
Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order No. 147 extended the state’s Safer at Home Phase 2 to Friday, July 17 and requires face coverings in certain public places—both indoor and outdoor—where staying six feet apart from others not in your household is impossible.
Public places include retail businesses, restaurants, personal care and grooming sites, child care centers and camps (employees), state government agencies under the Governor’s Cabinet, workers and riders of transportation, workers in construction/trades, manufacturing, agriculture, meat processing, and healthcare and long-term care settings.
As several of Brunswick County’s recent positive cases are among people who work in these kinds of sectors, wearing face coverings in these kinds of public settings is an important step in helping protect these individuals who work in settings where they are more exposed to people and the potential spread of the virus. More guidance about the requirements for use of face coverings and masks is on the NCDHHS website.
Employees and guests who frequent these businesses are also encouraged to participate in the Count on Me NC program. Guests can take the guest pledge and employees at local businesses can take the free training to show our support to strong COVID-19 mitigation efforts in our public places. Learn more about Brunswick County’s efforts to support the Count on Me NC program and recognize those who participate.
Everyone is urged to follow the three Ws when visiting any public area to best protect one another from the spread of the virus, especially asymptomatic spread. These efforts work best when they are all practiced together by as many people as possible:
- Wear a cloth face covering when in public (Make sure both your nose and mouth are fully covered and you are able to breathe normally while wearing it.)
- Wait six feet apart to avoid close contact and maintain appropriate social distancing between yourself and others
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer while also following other best hygiene practices