The image shows how the COVID-19 virus looks under intense magnification. Courtesy of the CDC

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Editor’s note: This guide was first published on March 11, but has been updated multiple times since. Below represents the most up-to-date information available.

COVID-19, also known as the new coronavirus, is a highly contagious illness that is spreading around the world in early 2020.

While the virus, which first emerged in the Wuhan province of China, causes potentially life-threatening respiratory failure in some who contract the disease, in others the symptoms of this disease can be mild.

Despite efforts to contain the virus, it has spread to the United States, with multiple cases of the new coronavirus in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper announced the first case last week and declared a state of emergency on Tuesday. On Saturday, Cooper issued an executive order closing N.C. public schools for at least two weeks and banning large gatherings.

[See the daily update about coronavirus in North Carolina here.]

The disease’s threat is not only to public health but also to economic stability and quality of life. Panicked reactions and spreading or listening to rumors about the illness can do more harm than good, public health experts warn. A calm and reasonable response, equipped with good information is the smartest strategy.

To help with this, Carolina Public Press is providing the following resource guide, with basic information and guidelines about where to find more information. This guide will be updated and expanded with new information while the COVID-19 crisis persists.

Basic public health information for COVID-19

COVID-19 is spread by direct contact with someone who has the illness or by touching a surface an infected person has touched. This includes having someone directly sneeze or cough on you, but at this point, the new coronavirus has not been found to spread through the air without such direct contact.

Medical experts are recommending the same sorts of precautions that people should take during flu season, including washing hands with soap and water. The virus is believed to pose a more serious threat to the elderly and those with vulnerable immune systems, who should take additional precautions.

An important difference from the flu is that there is currently no shot to improve odds against contracting COVID-19, and medical experts do not expect a vaccine to be available for some time.

As of Monday, March 16, North Carolina officials reported 33 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in North Carolina. However, after that official statewide count was reported, local health officials announced at least two more cases, including the first in Macon County, involving a person who visited Buncombe County during the previous week. Counties with residents with confirmed cases include (from west to east): Macon, Watauga, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Forsyth, Chatham, Durham, Wake, Harnett, Johnston, Wilson, Wayne, Brunswick, Onslow and Craven.

Because COVID-19 can take several days to develop and show symptoms, but can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms, it’s difficult to know how many more people may have been exposed.

Unlike some seemingly similar illnesses, the CDC says airborne transmission of COVID-19 without direct contact is unlikely.

But looking at different medical sites reveals some that describe the virus as airborne and some that say it is not airborne. They do not actually contradict, but are using the term “airborne” in different senses. It is true that the virus spreads in tiny droplets through the air when someone directly coughs or sneezes on another person, so in this sense the virus is airborne. But the virus does not appear to spread over longer distances through the air, according to the CDC.

Some misinformation has led to improper steps that are not recommended to combat coronavirus, such as well individuals wearing masks in public. Charlotte-based health care provider Novant Health notes on its website: “Currently, it is not recommended that an asymptomatic individual wear a mask. One danger from wearing the same mask over and over again is that if the coronavirus contaminates the environment, it will stick to the mask and you could contaminate yourself.”

However, masks may be recommended for individuals who are unwell, not to protect themselves but to prevent the spread of the virus to others, according to the CDC.

For more information about the virus and basic prevention, these links may be helpful:

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Medical organizations and facilities

COVID-19’s spread and the public’s response to it have the ability to challenge the resources and organizational limits of medical institutions, but many of them, including those in North Carolina, have been preparing for some time.

The following links provide information on or from specific medical institutions. However, many others not listed here may have information important in your area on their individual websites.

Atrium Health

Charlotte-based Atrium Health has announced restrictions on visitation due to coronavirus. Information about the disease and how Atrium’s hospitals are handling the situation is available on a special information page.

Cape Fear Valley Medical Center

Fayetteville-based Cape Fear Valley Medical center has posted information about coronavirus on its website, including an educational video.

Cone Health

Greensboro-based Cone Health has announced restrictions on visitors due to coronavirus. Information about the specific policies and the illness are available on a special page on Cone Health’s website.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas

Pinehurst-based FirstHealth of the Carolina has announced visitor restrictions due to COVID-19 and posted general information about the disease on its website. FirstHealth also provides a set of coronavirus guidelines from infectious disease expert, Dr. Paul Jawanda.

Duke Health 

Durham-based Duke has a page with tips on preparing for and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Included are tips on what to do in the event of a power loss when medications need to be kept chilled and getting extra oxygen canisters for those who need them. The page also has checklists for medical and emergency supplies.

Mission Health

Asheville-based Mission Health currently provides general information about COVID-19 on its website but may have information specific for its Western North Carolina customer base as the situation progresses.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center

Wilmington-based New Hanover Regional Medical center has announced visitor restrictions due to coronavirus. Hospital policies and general details about COVID-19 are available on a special information page. New Hanover has also posted a podcast video about COVID-19, featuring Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, an epidemiologist.

Novant Health

Charlotte-based Novant Health has posted information on coronavirus on its website.

Vidant Health

Greenville-based Vidant Health has announced visitation restrictions due to coronavirus. For updates on policies and general information about the illness, see Vidant’s special information page on COVID-19.

Wake Forest Baptist Health

Winston-Salem-based Wake Forest Baptist Health is maintaining a page with information on the coronavirus.

The page includes a video from Dr. Kevin High, president of Wake Forest Baptist Health, with information about how Wake Forest is readying itself for the new coronavirus, links to information from the CDC, an FAQ list, and a “COVID-19 Myths vs. Facts” guide.

Wake Med

Raleigh-based Wake Med is restricting visitors due to the new coronavirus and has posted a page with information about the illness and how WakeMed is handling the situation

UNC Health

Chapel Hill-based UNC Health has a page with information, an FAQ list and a 24/7 help line. UNC Health Sciences Library COVID-19 (coronavirus) resources – a large collection of resources with top and recent news, UNC information, supplies information, etc.

John Hopkins University School of Medicine

Although located in Baltimore, Maryland, John Hopkins is widely recognized as a national leader on infectious diseases and has resources on the national situation with COVID-19 that may be helpful to everyone.

Education and COVID-19

Concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 have led to schedule changes and event cancellations at many schools, colleges and universities. Many of schools have announced plans to extend their spring break by an extra week as the further develop their policies.

Many college athletic events have been suspended or canceled due to coronavirus, including NCAA college basketball’s Division I men’s and women’s championship tournaments, which have a long tradition of play at North Carolina sites and outstanding performance by North Carolina schools.

UNC system

The University of North Carolina System has posted a page with the latest updates on its response to COVID-19. The university system announced on Wednesday, March 11, that a transition to remote instruction was underway:

All UNC System institutions will transition from in-person instruction to a system of alternative course delivery, where possible and practical, no later than March 20. Alternative course delivery will begin on March 23 and last indefinitely. Our goal is to return to in-person instruction as soon as reasonably possible. Each institution will communicate the specific details to its students and faculty.”

Individual UNC-system schools have also announced websites with their specific policies and other information:

Private colleges and universities

Private colleges and universities across North Carolina have announced or are currently developing a range of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Listed here are links to the coronavirus information pages for some of these schools. Check the main websites for any schools not listed here to see if they have provided additional information.

Public school systems

Local school systems initially reacted in a wide range of ways to the spread of the virus, with policies subject to rapid change in response to the disease’s spread. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has temporarily suspended all inter-scholastic athletics.

But that changed on Saturday, March 14, with Cooper’s announcement that all public schools would be closed through March 30.

As individual school districts develop additional plans, those will likely appear on their district websites, in many cases on special coronavirus information pages.

Below are information pages for each public school district in North Carolina. In some cases, districts have posted special pages of coronavirus information. In other cases, no information on coronavirus was provided at the time this list was created, but it may be added to the school websites later. For private schools and charter schools, please contact the schools directly.

Airports and COVID-19

Because COVID-19 has spread into the United States from other countries in recent weeks, airports are a special point of interest in checking the spread of the new coronavirus in North Carolina.

Several North Carolina airports have posted information on COVID-19 as it relates to their operations:

Charlotte Douglas (CLT)

Piedmont Triad International (PTI)

Raleigh-Durham (RDU) 

Religious organizations and COVID-19

Catholic Diocese of Raleigh

The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh published a page with advice for those questioning participation in religious practices as coronavirus fears spread.

Catholic Diocese of Charlotte

On March 14, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte announced in a press release that Bishop Peter Jugis has excused Catholics from attending Mass and canceled events due to “the public health risk posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus in our region.”

Masses at churches holding more than 100 people are canceled due to the governor’s order against large gatherings. Masses and confessions at smaller church will continue, but the bishop advises Catholics to “exercise prudence in deciding whether to attend.” For more details and updates, see the diocese website.

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina

Check with individual churches on schedules and policies due to coronavirus in North Carolina. The denominational website has posted a webpage on coronavirus that may be updated over time.

Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina

The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina issued a statement on March 12 acknowledging the state of emergency due to the spread of coronavirus. For updates and possible cancelations, view the diocese coronavirus webpage.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, North Carolina Synod

Bishop Tim Smith posted a statement to the synod website on Saturday, March 14, calling for reduced church activities in light of coronavirus and the governor’s ban on large gatherings. To view the statement and other coronavirus policies of the state synod and links to national church organization’s coronavirus information page, view the synod website.

Islamic Association of Raleigh

The Islamic Association of Raleigh has canceled some Friday prayer services due to coronavirus. For general information and updates, see the coronavirus information webpage.

Moravian Church

The national organization of the Moravian Church is allowing individual churches to decide on schedules and policies due to coronavirus. The denomination has posted a coronavirus webpage that includes guidance on alternative worship for Moravians.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The national organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has left decisions on worship and schedules up to local churches, but has issued a coronavirus webpage for general information and support.

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention is one of the largest religious denominations in North Carolina, but each church exercises significant autonomy, so those seeking guidance on schedules and policies should check with the individual church.

The Southern Baptist Convention has called for a day of prayer on Sunday, March 15, due to the coronavirus.

United Church of Christ, Southern Conference

The Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ has called for a cessation of worship services due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has left the decision up to individual churches. To view the denomination statement on coronavirus, see the conference website.

United Methodist Church, North Carolina conference

Bishops Hope Morgan Ward and Paul Leeland have called on North Carolina Methodists to “cease public worship and other gatherings” for two weeks due to the spread of coronavirus. For more information and updates, see the denomination’s coronavirus webpage.

Other religious organizations

For information on additional North Carolina religious organizations and meetings, check with their local websites.

Editor’s note: Resource guide contributors include Imari Scarbrough and Frank Taylor.


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