North Carolina Deputy Dies During COVID-19 Hospitalization

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina deputy died while hospitalized in intensive care for treatment of the coronavirus, the sheriff said Wednesday.

Montgomery County Sheriff Chris Watkins said in a news release that Deputy Sypraseuth “Bud” Phouangphrachanh died Tuesday night at a hospital in Pinehurst. The 43-year-old deputy, who was married with five children, had experienced what he thought were allergy symptoms but later tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted Monday to the hospital.

Phouangphrachanh served as a school resource officer and had been with the sheriff’s office for 14 years in the rural county east of Charlotte known for the Uwharrie National Forest. The governor had ordered schools closed on March 16, but the sheriff said in a statement that Phouangphrachanh served multiple roles within the department.

“During his service to Montgomery County, he filled many roles, but his passion was as School Resource Officer where he worked with middle school and high school students,” the sheriff said, adding that he was known for his big smile and sense of humor.

It wasn’t clear whether the deputy contracted the virus while on duty. The sheriff said in an email that he didn’t have any information indicating when and how the deputy was exposed to COVID-19.

In the eastern part of the state, an employee at Maury Correctional Institution in Greene County, which can hold 1,500 offenders, has tested positive for COVID-19, the state Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice said.

The employee had been off the job since getting tested last week and self-reported the diagnosis on Monday, according to a division statement. The worker showed no symptoms, and has had “very limited, brief interactions” with prisoners, the agency said. The statement said the employee apparently was exposed to a family member with the virus. Some Maury prisoners are under quarantine as a precaution, the department said.

Visitations already had been suspended at state prisons for more than two weeks. No state prisoner has tested positive, division spokesman John Bull said on Wednesday.

“We do not underestimate the challenges we face to keep coronavirus from entering the prison system,” said commissioner of prisons Todd Ishee.

North Carolina state health officials reported more than 1,575 positive COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday morning, an increase of about 85 compared to Tuesday. The Department of Health and Human Services reported nine deaths statewide, not including that of the deputy. Two hundred people are hospitalized.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.