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Health director: close, not casual, contact spreads COVID-19

A Walgreens employee was one of two people in Beaufort County whose COVID-19 tests returned positive on Tuesday, Walgreens corporate office in Deerfield, Illinois, confirmed on Wednesday.

Walgreens in Washington closed its store to the public Wednesday, in response to the positive test.

“We are committed to providing a safe environment for our customers and team members. Walgreens was notified (Tuesday) that a team member who works in this store has a confirmed case of COVID-19. The individual has not been in the store since Monday, March 23,” Phil Caruso, with Walgreens media relations, wrote in an email. “In accordance with our established protocols and CDC guidance, we took immediate action to temporarily close the store for cleaning in order to disinfect the premises. We promptly notified and followed the guidance from the public health department. We have contacted impacted individuals who may be at risk, and they are self-quarantined. The store is expected to reopen tomorrow.”

Caruso added that customers with questions can contact the health department to learn more.

The employee posted on Facebook attesting to the positive test; the post has since been removed. A third Beaufort County resident’s test, linked to travel outside the county, came back positive on Wednesday.

Beaufort County Health Director Jim Madson assured the public that it requires more than casual contact to spread the virus.

“Any business that would have had a positive, the workers would be considered in close contact, but customers would not have been,” Madson said. “The risk (of contracting COVID-19) would be really low, because the contact would not be close enough or long enough to be considered close contact. … It’s really spread by droplets on items, on clothing or tables, touching that and not washing your hands and then touching your face. (Casual contact) is a very difficult way to get the disease.”

Madson said health department employees have already contacted everyone considered in close contact to the two people who first tested positive for the virus.

“If we didn’t contact people, we don’t consider them a close contact,” Madson said.

He added that while it is clear there is community transmission of the virus in Beaufort County, as long as people are taking proactive measures, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is much lower.

“You can go ahead and assume that we have community transmission of COVID. I don’t think it’s widespread in the community, but there’s probably some people out there that have it, and they’re asymptomatic,” Madson said.

Every Beaufort County resident can do their part to stop the spread of the virus, he said.

“Do all the things we’ve been asking you to do all along, just be more cognizant of it,” Madson said. “Follow the guidelines. Only go out for essential services. If you’re sick, isolate yourself from everybody; avoid going out in public if you are sick. Wash your hands.”

Walgreens’ drive-thru remains open for prescription drop off and pick up.