The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic, which is likely very frightening for many people, especially those who are most at risk for contracting the disease. A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread worldwide. Lincoln County officials are working to keep the community informed and safe.

A joint press release was issued by Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton on Wednesday indicating that officials met Tuesday, March 10, with representatives from Lincoln County Health Department, police, sheriff, fire, EMS, county and charter schools, Atrium Health, local assisted living facilities, doctor’s offices, local businesses and other privately owned health providers to open lines of communication and share information regarding the novel coronavirus that is circulating the US and worldwide. 

The press release said that although Lincoln County is currently a low risk community, Lincoln County and City of Lincolnton officials understand the concerns of citizens and are being proactive in reviewing and discussing local preparations and a potential response should the need arise.

Further, Lincoln County and City of Lincolnton departments are working together with internal and external partner agencies to ensure:

•          Public information is coordinated and reliable information from sources such as CDC and NCDHHS is shared with citizens on a timely basis

•          Everyone has current recommendations on cleaning and hygiene practices

•          Resources are available to private and public entities to provide the standard of care that has been established

•          Policies and Procedures are being reviewed to allow for remote work where possible, and absenteeism policies are reviewed for both leniency and red flag patterns

•          Open communication with Lincoln County Health Department, which will be the lead agency in responding to any local outbreak if one occurs.

According to the press release, there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln County. First responders will continue to respond to calls as normal, but residents may be asked additional questions by telecommunicators to determine if the patient has had a potential exposure.

Global efforts at this time are focused on lessening the spread and impact of this virus, according to the press release. Lincoln County residents are urged to exercise judgment and common sense:

•          Monitor information provided by the CDC and NCDHHS in addition to any official State, County & City communications.

•          Take everyday preventive actions which include

o          Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.

o          Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

o          Avoid close contact with people who are ill.

o          Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

o          Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

o          Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched.

•          Older people and people with severe chronic conditions (heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease) should take special precautions because they are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.

•          Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor or medical provider.

Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton are prepared and ready to respond should COVID-19 illness be suspected or confirmed in the community. All citizens are urged to do their part to slow the spread of the disease, so it does not overwhelm our healthcare facilities and providers. Lincoln County and the City of Lincolnton have posted current information and recommendations to their respective websites (LincolnCounty.org & LincolntonNC.org) and will provide future updates and instructions as appropriate.

For general questions regarding COVID-19 please call the Coronavirus Helpline at 1-866-462-3821.

In conjunction with six other regional health systems, Atrium Health expanded visitor restrictions to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, according to a press release also issued on Wednesday. In light of Governor Cooper’s declaration of a state of emergency in North Carolina due to the virus, Atrium Health is taking this additional measure to protect the health of our patients, their loved ones and our medical staff.

Atrium Health also issued a press release indicating that effective immediately, only immediate family members, aged 13 and over, will be able to take part in hospital visiting hours unless deemed absolutely necessary by the patient’s healthcare team. This standard will apply even if visitors are healthy and regardless of their age. Existing visitation restrictions already apply to all children age 12 and under due to the ongoing flu season visitor restrictions that remain in effect.

In addition, any and all visitors, including family members, with flu-like symptoms such as fever and new or worsening cough or shortness of breath will not be allowed in patient areas to help control the spread of illnesses. Nursing staff and the attending physician will work with families who have special circumstances, such as a critically ill or injured family member, on a case-by-case basis.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation and Atrium Health will take additional steps to help control the spread of COVID-19 as necessary,” Dan Fogleman from Atrium Media Relations said. “Atrium Health recognizes that interacting with friends and family can be helpful to the healing process and strongly encourage everyone to utilize other forms of support for their loved ones, such as phone calls, video chats on cell phones or other mobile devices.”

The decision to expand these visitor restrictions is a collaborative effort among Atrium Health and six other regional health systems including Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge, CaroMont Health, Cone Health, Novant Health, Randolph Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health, according to the press release.

For those who are concerned they many have contracted COVID-19, the CDC and Health Department are actively working to increase access to testing. Testing is currently being focused on patients who have symptoms of the flu and who came in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case.

For those that have flu or cold-like symptoms, please stay home from work or school until you have no fever for at least 48 hours without Tylenol, Advil/Ibuprofen or other fever lowering medicines. If your breathing gets worse, or you still have a fever after five days, please contact Atrium Health before visiting a doctor’s office, urgent care or emergency department.

Please consider using Virtual Visit services to prevent spreading germs by getting care from home at www.AtriumHealth.org/VirtualVisit.

CaroMont Health has also expanding visitor restrictions for CaroMont Regional Medical Center, the Birthplace and Courtland Terrace to help control the spread of respiratory illnesses, like Coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect the health of patients and employees.

For specific concerns regarding Lincoln County please call the Lincoln County Health Department triage 

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