With a fourth case of COVID-19 identified in Nash County, local officials are taking further steps to try to protect residents from harm.

Nash County Health Director William Hill announced the new confirmed case Tuesday at a remote meeting of the Nash County COVID-19 Emergency Response Team.

“We have a fourth case that was reported last night,” Hill said. “This case involved contact with a Nash County resident who is now in an intensive care unit at a hospital in another county.”

Hill said his team was at first confused as to how the latest victim of the virus, identified only as “a younger person,” contracted COVID-19 from the person who now is in the ICU unit.

After some investigative work, Hill and his team determined that the older person likely was exposed by the younger person.

“This younger individual had returned home from traveling to another state and likely inadvertently spread the virus to the previously identified older person,” Hill said. “These were members of the same household and the exposure was directly linked.”

The case illustrates the need for residents to follow the tightened government regulations at this time, Hill said.

“I cannot stress enough to our community that if you are feeling sick with mild symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, stop the spread by staying home to recover,” Hill said in a statement posted by Nash County.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Hill also said that state health officials expect a surge in cases at both hospitals and health departments in the coming days. Because of the increase in reported cases, the state lab may start prioritizing the testing of samples based on high-risk cases because the state labs are becoming overwhelmed, he said.

He also said the state lab has stopped issuing press releases on cases because they are becoming more routine.

As of Tuesday, 398 cases were reported in the state, up from 297 reported the day before.

“The cases are still trending upwards and I think we are a ways from peaking,” Hill said. “We don’t know how long it will go up, how long it will plateau and how long it will take to come down,” he said.

Hill said residents need to be aware if they have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19. The state health department is defining this as “being within a six-foot range of someone for more than 10 minutes.”

“If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case, you should be in quarantine for 14 days,” Hill said. “Someone who is sick at all should stay inside for seven days or until fever has been normal for 72 hours.”

Hill said he hopes the community comes out of this with a better understanding of the importance of hand-washing.

As a further precaution to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Nash County is closing most of the access to its parks and playgrounds, Nash County Parks and Recreation Director Thomas Gillespie said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We feel that many park activities make it hard to promote social distancing, and it would be safer to close the parks for the time being,” Gillespie told the Telegram in a later interview.

The parks affected by the shutdown include W.B. Ennis Memorial Park in Red Oak, J.W. Glover Memorial Park in Nashville, Spring Hope Community Park, Castalia Community Park and the Bailey/Middlesex Community Park.

All facilities at these parks will be off-bounds, including restrooms, playgrounds, all fields and all courts.

The only facilities that remain open are the walking trails offered at every park except Spring Hope Community Park.