LOUISBURG -- Franklin County joined the list of counties with confirmed cases of COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to shut down, shutter and suspend all aspects of life.
On March 20, four Franklin County residents tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials confirmed. By Wednesday, an additional county case appeared on the State Department of Health and Human Services website.
Also, a North Carolinian has died from COVID-19 complications, according to the state. [A later portion of this story, sent to press earlier, noted that no deaths had been reported].
To protect their privacy, health officials are not identifying the individuals who tested positive and have not publicly revealed where those folks might have visited.
Franklin County Health Director Scott LaVigne did say that testing for COVID-19 has been done by the Franklin County Health Department and "just about every medical provider in the community."
Those who've tested positive are under quarantine and isolation orders. And LaVigne said health staff has worked to contact as many people as they know who have been in close contact with those who tested positive.
He said, at present, health departments don't have the manpower or resources to investigate every place that a positively tested person may have visited.
"If you've had contact [or are concerned that you did], here's what you need to do," LaVigne said. "The first thing is monitor your symptoms.
"[But] if you know in fact [you've been in contact], we recommend people to self-quarantine.
"... If you don't develop symptoms after seven days, at that point, according to the guidance, it's okay to resume regular functioning."
Currently, there is no treatment for COVID-19, so people who do experience fever or upper respiratory symptoms should isolate themselves, health officials say, for at least seven days after onset and for more than 72 hours after symptoms have been resolved.
"If people have a primary care doctor, contact them and describe the symptoms," LaVigne said.
"They will tell you what they need you to do."
As of press time, 10,489 tests for COVID-19 had been completed, with 504 cases of the virus reported in the state.
There have been zero deaths linked to the pandemic in North Carolina.
"... Given the sharp increases we anticipate, actual cases in a county may not initially register on the state's website-count for that county," LaVigne said, referring people to the site: https:llwww.ncdhhs.gov/covid-19-case-count-nc.
As for cases across the state and in Franklin County, LaVigne said "we anticipate that case numbers will increase."
• On March 16, Franklin County declared a state of emergency, giving the county the flexibility it needs to respond to the pandemic.
County offices and services have either been closed to the public or drastically changed. A full list of those changes can be found through the Franklin County Corona Virus COVID-19 Joint Information Center (JIC) at (919) 496-8113, or by visiting the county's website at: www.franklincountync.us and clicking on the coronavirus alert.
Town offices in Bunn, Youngsville, Louisburg and Franklinton have been closed to the public during the pandemic.
Some services, like law enforcement, can't take advantage of work-from-home scenarios, so many have adapted to the pandemic and enacted practices to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
• At Lake Royale, officers are asking that any matter that can be handled via telephone or email, those resources be used.
"... Officers are constantly in the community and trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is a priority for everyone at this time," said the police department in a social media post.
"... I want to reassure the community that officers will continue to patrol and will not change being in the community," the post states. "We are implementing these precautions so the spread of the virus does not continue to grow."
• Louisburg police have also instituted protocols to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
The department has increased its inventory of supplies, such as gloves, masks, disinfectant and hand sanitizer.
The department, Louisburg Police Chief Jason Abbott said, has also "increased our capacity to handle larger civil disturbances."
Like Lake Royale, officers will also try to handle low priority matters via telephone.
Also, staff has been reassigned to improve the department's ability to handle matters in the event an officer is exposed or sickened by the virus.
"I have met with Sheriff Kent Winstead and other law enforcement partners to ensure that we can rely on each other's agencies in the event resources are needed," Abbott said.
"... Our office is open but we discourage our citizens from coming to the police department if possible," he said.
"... During this time of difficulty, I want our citizens to know that we are still available and prepared," he said. "We are still in your neighborhoods and if you call for us, we will be there.
"I ask that people stay calm, monitor CDC recommendations, monitor government notifications, and take reasonable precautions.
"Instead of panic and hoarding, I ask that you reach out to your neighbor who may need help and lets all take reasonable steps together until this passes."
Youngsville Police Chief Greg Whitley said officers have been encouraged to take all precautions against contracting COVID-19, but "we have no current nor anticipated breaks in service."
• The sheriff's office and animal control have also taken measures to limit public contact.
Among other things, the department is not accepting new concealed carry applications, but is accepting renewal applications.
There are no jail visitations, either.
The animal services office is closed to the public, but the shelter is open to the public, Monday-Friday, noon until 2 p.m.
It's suggested that for any service, call ahead to learn about what services are being continued, what's been suspended or cancelled.
• For more information, visit the State Department of Health and Human Services website at: www.ncdhhs.gov, or for Franklin County specific information, the Franklin County Corona Virus COVID-19 Joint Information Center (JIC) can be reached, Monday through Friday, from 8-5 p.m., at (919) 496-8113. The number is monitored after hours.