Local And State Health Directors Reflect 1 Year After The First COVID Case Announced in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, NC – It’s been 365 days since the first confirmed case of coronavirus was announced in North Carolina. While a lot has changed, health officials say there is still more to be done.

“Our most important work is keeping people healthy and safe,” said Gov Roy Cooper during a March 3rd 2020 news conference.

Cooper was standing at a crowded podium and there was not a mask to be found.

“We do expect to see more cases in North Carolina,” continued Cooper during that 2020 news conference.

A year ago, there were 118 cases of COVID nationwide. The cases were in just 15 states. Nine people had died.

Meetings were still being held in crowded rooms. Airports were packed and screening of passengers was just beginning.

“At that point you sort of think you have an idea of what to expect. We had no idea what to expect at that point,” said Mecklenburg County health director Dr. Gibbie Harris.

Harris spoke with WCCB on Wednesday. She took a look back at a year like no other.

“Are we ever fully prepared for that? I don’t think so. But we had enough in place that we were able to respond,” said Harris.

Harris says a lot has changed for the better. Their crisis response is well up to date. Staff are prepared to pivot to other positions and communications between cities and towns has strengthened.

“We have to be able to adapt to meet the situations that are needed in our community,” said Harris.

“We still have work to do,” State health director Dr. Mandy Cohen.

She was speaking about the response.

“We didn’t have enough protective equipment, we didn’t have enough testing, we didn’t have the communications in place, we couldn’t share data, so we had a lot to improve upon,” said Cohen.

She says going forward the state needs to analyze our crisis response and health care system as a whole.

Both health directors say we’re not out of the pandemic just yet.

“We get as many people vaccinated by the end of May, you know, this might be a really good summer for us. I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Harris with a smile.