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On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, the Pitt County Health Director, Dr. John Silvernail released an open letter to all Pitt County residents offering thanks for “doing well” to minimize the virus, and requesting that residents continue to practice safety measures to prevent further spread of the virus. The letter also provided direction for not only “getting past the virus, but learning to live with it safely.”
My Fellow Pitt County Residents,
As I write this letter, we are nearly 9 incubation cycles (18 weeks) since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Pitt County. That day was March19, 2020. I know this has been a long time for you and your families and I wish I could tell you it will all be over soon, but I cannot. COVID-19 will likely be with us for a long time to come, so for the foreseeable future, it may not be about getting past it, but about learning to live with it safely.
First, let me thank you for all you have done to help fight COVID-19. You have done well, and our community has fared well so far in this pandemic. Second, I am writing this letter to ask for your continued help as we learn to live with COVID-19.
Stay Home if You are Sick:
While the symptoms of COVID-19 continue to evolve, it is important to remember if you are sick, please stay home. We have tracked several exposures that have occurred because a sick person went to work, or some other gathering, while knowing they were sick. Please don’t do this.
Wear Your Mask:
While masks or other face coverings may only offer limited protection to you from others, they do greatly decrease your ability to spread the virus to other people if you have it. Some people may not know they have COVID-19 due to the mild nature of the illness in many individuals. I know some people cannot tolerate face coverings, but those who can, should wear a mask while in public, where they cannot maintain social distancing.
Wait Six Feet from Others:
When in public, please wait or stay six feet from others. Most businesses have markings to assist with this. The virus needs close contact with others to spread, so when in public, protect yourself by staying at a safe distance from others.
Wash Your Hands:
While contact transmission (disease spread by touching hard surfaces) is probably less efficient, it may still occur. Please wash or sanitize your hands frequently. This will prevent you from unknowingly introducing the virus to your body.
Contact Tracing / Answer the Call:
Contact tracing is an activity undertaken by public health workers to help control the spread of infections like COVID-19. This works by identifying people who may have been exposed, preventing them from exposing others, and getting them tested at the right time after their exposure. In most cases, the exposed individual will be offered testing on or after they are 6 days from their last exposure to a person with COVID-19. Contact tracing calls from Pitt County Health Department will usually come from our main telephone number (252-902-2300). There are other groups who may assist with contact tracing, so please, answer the call.
If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, please self-quarantine. If directed to do so by public health, please do so. While I can issue a legally binding quarantine order, I would prefer not to. Please cooperate with us in these efforts.
Those individuals known, or strongly suspected of having COVID-19, must be isolated. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please stay home and self-isolate. Again, I can issue a legally binding isolation order, but I would prefer not to. Please cooperate with isolation recommendations.
We are all missing human contact and with warm weather here, there is a temptation to have private parties. I would ask that you think long and hard about this. COVID-19 needs close person to person contact to efficiently spread. We have seen examples of this even in small gatherings. Please, if you host a gathering, make provisions for social distancing.
COVID-19 will be with us for some time to come. We must learn to live with it. To that end, Pitt County Health Department has or will be doing several things. We continue to operate our COVID-19 Hotlines (252-902-2300) to answer questions and provide guidance to the community. Last week, we began a community testing program in Pitt County. Under the leadership of our Director of Nursing, our staff and partners have provided testing for nearly 1600 individuals. Please see the details regarding testing sites in our separate releases or on our website calendar at https://www.pittcountync.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=1592 . In the near future, we will form a Living with COVID-19 Committee. This committee will include local elected leaders, local business leaders, myself / Deputy Director, and other community representatives. We are also assisting ECU-BSOM with a Community Prevention and COVID-19 Testing (ComPACT) Prevalence Study. This study will help to assess the amount of COVID-19 in our community. For more information or to participate in this study, visit: compactstudy.ecu.edu.
Thank you for all you have done to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in Pitt County. I know this has been a long haul, and there is still a long haul in front of us, but we will get to the other side of this eventually. Pitt County Health Department will be with you on this journey, all the way to its eventual end.
I have been asked; “Are you sorry you took this job?” No. I am honored to be your Health Director and would not want to be anywhere else. I told my staff we must learn to be confident and comfortable in the eye of the storm. Personally, I thrive in the eye of the storm!
With warmest regards, I remain most humbly yours,
John L. Silvernail, MD, MPH
Pitt County Health Director