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'We can expect cases at some point' | Mecklenburg County prepares for coronavirus

Mecklenburg Co. Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said she expects to see cases of the novel coronavirus and is warning against travel to certain destinations.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County health officials are starting a new hotline that anyone can call with questions regarding the novel coronavirus. It's part of the county's preparedness plan as they urge the community to be ready to see cases in the county. 

The hotline is 980-314-9400. You can call it if you have questions about symptoms, preparedness, details about the virus, or other information. 

"We can expect cases at some point," said Gibbie Harris, the director of Mecklenburg County Public Health. 

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She gave an update on the county's plans and readiness for the virus at Wednesday's Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners meeting. 

"This is evolving daily," she said. 

After the update, she answered our questions that started with the protocol when someone gets diagnosed with the virus. 

Harris said if someone tests positive for COVID-19, the patient is put in isolation in a hospital or at home, depending on their condition. They would stay in isolation until they have two, back-to-back negative test results for the virus. 

Epidemiologists would also work to track down the people the patient came in contact with since acquiring the virus. 

For those who travel back from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran (countries that have had major outbreaks of coronavirus), it's mandated that those travelers self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Harris said she understands the concerns for those who are traveling on planes around the world and the country. 

"If you're going to a location where we know there are cases, such as Seattle, I would suggest thinking twice," she said. "People have to use their best judgment."

The county is expecting to place travel restrictions for employees to certain places over the next few days, according to Harris. 

No local, public events that draw in large crowds of people have been canceled in the county, as some have in other states. However, Harris says the plans are evolving as the outbreak evolves, which is daily. 

"It would be hard to think that a community this size, with the number of people who travel in and out of this community, would get bypassed," Harris said. 

Testing kits for the virus are analyzed by the state, then sent off to the CDC for confirmation. Harris said if you think you have symptoms or have the virus, to check with your doctor who can determine whether you need to be tested. 

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Harris said hospitals are trying to be as prepared as they can to respond to local cases. 

"You know, we're doing the best we can with the resources available to us," she said. 

Several people have been tested for COVID-19 in Mecklenburg County over the past few months, according to Harris. None of them have been positive. 

Health officials are still urging everyone to practice good hygiene and to be prepared. 

"Because of the lack of immunity in our communities, it can run through a community pretty quickly," Harris said. 

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