CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — A wedding. An Easter family gathering. Birthday parties.
According to Cabarrus Health Alliance, residents held these gatherings over the past two weeks and now officials are investigating COVID-19 outbreaks at each event with more than 18 people infected.
Officials said in most cases, the number of people at the events was less than 10, which highlights the need for people to follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“Less than 10 isn’t some magic number that prevents the spread of the virus,” CHA Chief Operating Officer Erin Shoe said. “There’s a reason for the Stay-At-Home Proclamation (put into effect by the County and municipalities on March 26 and revised on March 31), and there are real, consequential effects of not following that order and socializing and interacting in groups outside your family nucleus.”
According to CHA, officials are seeing a growing number of cases where people are testing positive for COVID-19 after holding small gatherings despite the stay-at-home-order.
“One of the most frustrating things for our new positive cases is that they tell us, ‘Yeah, I had a party this weekend,’ or, ‘I had a get-together this weekend,’” Dr. Natasha Mofrad with CHA’s clinical investigation team said. “Some people are feeling more comfortable and they are starting to have small gatherings, and then we’re seeing many people (at those gatherings) getting sick.”
CHA said the clinical investigation team has found 35 close contacts associated with the four recent gatherings.
A close contact is anybody who was within six feet of the person for more than 10 minutes in the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms.
Each contact is now under a 14-day quarantine.
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Cabarrus is now battling another issue -- essential workers going to work sick, which could cause large outbreaks.
Of the positive cases from the four gatherings, officials said six are now out of work, and most of those are essential workers.
“We’ve seen people who were in close quarters with co-workers on Wednesday and no one starts having symptoms until Friday, and then all of them are quarantined and stuck at home for two weeks, even though they are doing essential jobs,” Dr. Elly Steel with the clinical investigation team said.
Officials said it’s important for Cabarrus residents to remain vigilant about following all the recommended guidelines.
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“And that doesn’t just mean having less than 10 people at a gathering. It means staying home. It means wearing masks in public. It means social distancing regardless of where you are," Shoe said. “It means doing your part to help stop the spread locally.”