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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

North Carolina Now Has A Coronavirus Task Force

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization gave an official name to the disease caused by the new coronavirus that’s sickened thousands of people in China: COVID-19. Within hours, North Carolina annonced it was pulling together a task force of health officials to help prevent the spread of the virus here — something that so far hasn’t been a problem.

“Though currently the risk to North Carolinians is low, we are taking a proactive approach and are prepared for potential scenarios,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday in a statement announcing the creation of the task force.

The task force – led by the state’s chief medical officer and the North Carolina Emergency Management head – will work with local and federal agencies to “keep the public informed and safe,” according to a news release from Cooper’s office.

As of Tuesday, there haven’t been any confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in North Carolina, but Mecklenburg County announced Friday it was monitoring four travelers at “medium risk” of infection for two weeks. They all had recently arrived in the U.S. from China, were screened and sent home for voluntary quarantine after not presenting any symptoms.

There have been 12 confirmed cases in the U.S. as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None was in the Southeast.

In China, at least 42,000 people have been sickened by the virus and more than 1,000 people have died, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The virus is thought to have initially come from animals in Wuhan, China, but can now be spread from person to person. According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, coronaviruses are typically spread between people via coughing, sneezing and person-to-person contact. People who come in contact with the virus can infect themselves by touching their nose, mouth and eyes without washing their hands.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. State Department was recommending Americans avoid traveling to China.

The state health department also now has a hotline for people with questions about the virus: 866-462-3821.