• 86°

Beaufort County reports first COVID death

Beaufort County reported its first COVID-19-related death on Friday.

According to Beaufort County Public Health Director Jim Madson, a Beaufort County woman died of complications from the virus Wednesday. Madson said the elderly woman had several underlying conditions that contributed to her death.

The patient was the 56th laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case in the county, according to a press release from Beaufort County Health Department. The 56th case was recorded in the June 17 COVID-19 update from the health department and Beaufort County Emergency Services, which has been issued daily since March 16.

Though the woman was being cared for in the Vidant system, it is unclear whether she was at Vidant Beaufort Hospital in Washington or Vidant Medical Center in Greenville when the death occurred, according to Madson. Madson said he was unable to provide more information due to HIPAA regulations.

“I am saddened by this death and so sorry for the family’s loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them,” Madson said.

Vidant Beaufort Hospital declined to confirm where the death occurred and referred questions to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“In order to protect patient privacy, our number one priority, we limit how and what information is shared about death’s related to COVID. We do report the overall number of positive COVID patients currently admitted to our hospitals system wide,” Pam Shadle, Vidant Beaufort’s director of marketing, community outreach and development, wrote in an email.

Madson said it wasn’t unexpected Beaufort County would experience a COVID-19-related death. The report comes a day after Beaufort County’s total case count jumped from 64 to 73 overnight. The case count increased again, to 75, on Friday. Currently, there are 23 active COVID-19 cases in the county — the most since the first case was confirmed on March 24.

“I’m trying to figure out whether that was because (the nine positive tests) were entered into the data system in batches, rather than over a two- or three-day period,” Madson said. “I think it’s because the two days before that we had zero (new cases). Obviously,  I think we’re seeing more cases, but I don’t know that we’ll be seeing nine every day. But that’s one of those things that time tells.”

The press release issued by the health department Friday afternoon encourages Beaufort County residents to continue taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Practice social distancing (maintain at least 6 feet between you and others);
  • Wear your mask when social distancing isn’t possible;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
  • Staying home when you are sick;
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a household
  • cleaning spray or wipe;
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after
  • going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.