John and Mary Carpenter are leaving groceries outside the door of a Danville woman who has voluntarily quarantined herself in her home for two weeks following a months-long trip to China.
The Chinese-American woman returned home Sunday amid international concern regarding the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization recently renamed COVID-19.
John Carpenter, her pastor at Covenant Reformed Baptist Church in nearby Providence, North Carolina, and his wife are doing their best to take care of her.
“She’s a church member so we take care of our church members,” said John Carpenter.
Added Mary Carpenter: “Church is family, and she’s part of our family.”
The woman, who is in her 60s and has lived in the United States for more than a decade, chose not to comment and requested her name not be used in this story. The Register & Bee has agreed not to reveal her identity. She is not showing any symptoms of COVID-19, the Carpenters said, but will remain on voluntary quarantine for a full two weeks, checking her temperature twice a day and closely monitoring her conditions.
“An abundance of precaution is a smart thing to do,” Mary Carpenter said.
The local Virginia Department of Health is not aware of such a case, said Dr. Scott Spillmann, district health director for the Pittsylvania/Danville and Southside Health Districts for the Virginia Department of Health.
At this time, there are no mandatory quarantines in the Pittsylvania-Danville and Southside Health Districts, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established that a quarantine period of 14 days after the most recent exposure is a sufficient time for this virus.
After spending several months in the province of Zhejiang, which is on an island in the East China Sea, the Danville resident returned home. The province was quarantined the day after she left.
The Carpenters drove the woman’s car to the Raleigh-Durham airport, where her flight arrived on Sunday from Chicago. American citizens returning home after being in China the last 14 days are currently being rerouted to any of a handful of airports — Chicago’s O’Hare International being one of them — for a health screening at a quarantine station, according to the CDC.
She wore a medical mask when she arrived at the airport, and drove home. The Carpenters also left a large supply of food at her door on Monday.
In addition to providing transport and food, the Carpenters have kept the woman company — calling and texting her often. Mary Carpenter compared what the woman is experiencing to solitary confinement.
The first confirmed person-to-person spread of this virus in the United States occurred Jan. 30, and the World Health Organization declared the virus a global health emergency the next day.
While national and international health organizations are providing resources and encouraging people to take precautionary steps, the risk in the United States is not considered grave right now.
“While this situation poses a very serious public health threat, the immediate risk to the U.S. public continues to be low at this time,” said Lilian Peake, state epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health. “The novel coronavirus is not spreading in the community in the U.S.”
The virus affects the respiratory system with symptoms such as a severe cough and difficulty breathing. According to the most recent data from the World Health Organization, there are 43,103 confirmed cases of the disease, with the vast majority in China. There have been 395 cases throughout 24 countries outside of China, with just 13 of those occurring in the United States.
In total, the World Health Organization reports there have been 1,018 deaths, with only one of those occurring outside of China.
So far, six Virginia residents have been tested for COVID-19, but each test came back negative for the disease.
Spillmann said people can take some steps to ensure that they remain healthy.
“Get sufficient rest even if you are well — more if you are ill,” he said. “Drink plenty of fluids, stay home if you are ill, cough into your elbow, and wash and clean your hands frequently.”
Even as the threat has not been realized in Virginia, health officials are attempting to prevent further spread and preparing for worst-case scenarios.
“We are building on the daily work that we do to prevent and control outbreaks and from lessons learned responding to past emerging diseases, including SARS, H1N1, Ebola and Zika to proactively prepare for the potential of further spread in the U.S.,” Peake said.
Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.