Fort Bragg reports first COVID-19 deaths
By RACHAEL RILEY AND RODD BAXLEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: April 18, 2020
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FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Fort Bragg officials reported Friday that two employees with connections to the installation have died of the coronavirus.
In a news release, officials said the employees, who died Thursday, were residents of Cumberland County, where six deaths associated with COVID-19 have been reported.
"We lost two valued members of our Fort Bragg community last night," Lt. Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, said in a statement released Friday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families in their time of loss."
One of the individuals was a Department of the Army employee, and the other was a contractor who worked at Fort Bragg.
Officials said the deaths are the first ones caused by the virus with a connection to Fort Bragg.
Officials said no further information will be released about the employees to respect the families and to comply with Department of Defense guidance.
The Cumberland County Department of Public Health said Thursday's deaths were of patients in their 50s.
One of them, who had underlying medical conditions, died at Womack Army Medical Center. The other death was reported by the Department of Public Health, according to a news release.
"This is heartbreaking. Our sympathies go out to the family and friends," Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green said. "Our sadness is shared by everyone working to slow the spread of this virus in our community."
Eleven coronavirus-related deaths have been reported this week in the Cape Fear region.
Cumberland County reported 105 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday afternoon, an increase of 19 since Monday.
"We can't stress strongly enough the importance of following the stay-at-home order and only venturing out for essential needs like work or to buy food or medicine," Green said. "If you do go out, we recommend you wear a face mask if social distancing isn't possible."
The average age for all cases in Cumberland County is 50. Eighty-five patients are between ages 25 and 64, and men account for 55 of the positive cases.
Robeson County reported its first two coronavirus-related deaths Friday, according to county spokeswoman Emily Jones.
A 70-year-old man, who was hospitalized locally, and a 69-year-old man, who visited family members in a highly affected state, died recently, Jones said.
Jones confirmed five additional COVID-19 cases, bringing Robeson County's total to 20 as of Friday afternoon. That's an increase of 10 since Monday.
The age range of the latest five cases is 35 to 73. Two patients, a 55-year-old man and 73-year-old woman, remain hospitalized.
A 47-year-old man, 46-year-old woman and 35-year-old woman are recovering at home, according to Jones.
"The trend lately has been that the affected are employees of larger business operations, so work sites are more and more being the vehicle of transmission," Jones said in a news release. "Anecdotally, there are reports of people not adhering to social distancing over the holiday, which has placed them at undue risk of getting the virus. Social distancing, hand washing, disinfecting all remain routine daily living habits."
After Department of Defense officials issued a directive earlier this month for military installations to no longer publicly report COVID-19 cases for operational security reasons, it is unknown how many cases are tied to Fort Bragg.
Before the DOD guidelines were issued, Fort Bragg reported 13 positive cases of the virus, which included Department of the Army civilians, a veteran, dependents and two service members.
Officials said most of the patients are people in isolation at their homes off post who were counted in their county of residence.
Department of Defense leaders previously said installations would continue to report cases to local health departments.
In Lee County, 30 residents have tested positive for the virus, including nine additional cases reported Friday.
It's the largest single-day increase for the county. However, according to a news release, the increase is not unexpected as North Carolina enters what is expected to be the peak of the outbreak.
Seven patients in Lee County have resumed normal activities, and the other 23 continue to be monitored by the county Health Department, according to a news release.
"Based on (state) data, we expect the increase in the number of cases across the state to peak later next week," Lee County Health Director Heath Cain said. "We should assume our numbers will continue to rise. We are hopeful that after next week, the rate of new cases identified will begin to fall as we realize the benefit of flattening the curve. But this virus will be around for quite some time."
Sampson County also reported an additional coronavirus case Friday, bringing the total positive cases there to 19.
That's an increase of six since Monday.
The latest COVID-19 patient is isolated at home and stable, a news release said. The contact tracing investigation is ongoing, but the case appears to be community spread, the county's Health Department said.
There have been 189 tests performed in Sampson County, and four of the 19 patients have recovered.
There are 55 confirmed cases in Harnett County, including a 2-year-old patient, according to a news release. Of those cases, 39 patients had recovered as of Friday evening.