With two COVID-19-related deaths now reported in North Carolina and a high-ranking state official diagnosed with the coronavirus, Gov. Roy Cooper is hinting at a state lockdown and local officials are busy battling rumors about the situation here in the Twin Counties.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Cooper announced that the first two deaths had occurred in the state.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office, a person from Cabarrus County died on March 24 from complications associated with the virus. The patient was in their late 70s and had several underlying medical conditions. A second person in their 60s from Virginia who was traveling through North Carolina also died from COVID-19 complications.

To protect the families’ privacy, no further information about these patients will be released.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones. This is a stark warning that for some people COVID-19 is a serious illness. All of us must do our part to stop the spread by staying at home as much as possible and practicing social distancing,” Cooper said.

Cooper also said that the state now is in mourning for these victims and the ones to come.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that this will not be our last death,” he said.

Cooper also said that homes and businesses should prepare for more restrictions that likely will be introduced later this week, including a possible shelter-in-place order like those already issued by some counties and municipalities across the state.

“We want to be deliberate and do what is right,” Cooper said. “We will be issuing additional orders soon.”

More than 500 people across the state have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 29 currently are hospitalized. Two of those hospitalized are from Nash County.

No new cases have been reported in Nash County and the current total is four, Nash County Health Director William Hill said at a meeting on Wednesday. This number is accurate despite the fact that state maps published by the state Department of Health and Human Services only are reporting two Nash County cases, he said.

In Edgecombe County, no positive cases have been reported, according to Edgecombe County Health Director Karen Lachapelle. As of Wednesday, 18 total tests had been administered by the Edgecombe County Health Department. Eight of those tests have returned with negative results and 10 test results are pending.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell reported Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and now is under quarantine.

“I have quarantined myself and will follow the advice of my physician as to when I will be medically cleared to return to the office. The staff at the Department of State Treasurer has been notified and starting today, only those absolutely necessary for continuing business services will be in our building,” Folwell said.

Folwell said the state’s business should continue as normal.

“My thoughts and prayers are with not only those who are sick, but those who are impacted by the vast financial fallout of this pandemic,” he said. “We will continue to work diligently to make sure retiree checks still go out on time. The State Health Plan provides comprehensive health care coverage and state banking operations continue uninterrupted.”

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mount Telegram and local officials have been kept busy with rumor control.

  • Rumor 1: Two Sam’s employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Several other businesses also have employees with COVID-19 who are putting customers in danger.

While neither Hill nor Nash County Deputy Health Director Trey Wright will come right out and comment on specific situations, both treated these reports as rumors without foundation.

“If an employee at any business tests positive for COVID-19, they are quarantined, and we conduct contact tracing to make sure that anyone who could be affected is notified. If we find that the employee has had contact with the public, we will send out a press release notifying the public of possible exposure just as we would with hepatitis or other communicable diseases,” Wright said. “We have not sent out such a notice.”

Wright said Sam’s and other businesses are safe to shop at as long as customers take the normal precautions for COVID-19 including sanitizing carts and keypads before touching them, avoiding contact with surfaces when possible and practicing social distancing measures.

  • Rumor 2: There are patients in Nash UNC Health Care with COVID-19.

Nash UNC Health Care spokeswoman Dorsey Tobias confirmed Wednesday afternoon that there are no patients in the hospital with COVID-19.

  • Rumor 3: Several Tarboro residents have COVID-19 and now are hospitalized at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

Edgecombe County Health Director Karen Lachapelle reported Wednesday afternoon that no cases of COVID-19 have been reported anywhere in Edgecombe County, including in Tarboro.

  • Rumor 4: The National Guard has been called out to enforce state executive orders.

Both Brent Fisher of the Nash County EMS and state officials say the National Guard has been called out. However, they have not been tasked with any enforcement duties.

“The National Guard is on active duty for commodity management and distribution of supplies needed during this crisis,” Fisher said. “They are not on enforcement duty, despite rumors.”