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Marking 2 years since the first COVID-19 case was detected in North Carolina

The first known case was detected on March 3, 2020 in a Wake County person who had traveled home from Washington state.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thursday marks exactly two years since the first known case of COVID-19 was detected in North Carolina. In the days and weeks after, the virus spread quickly and society started shutting down.

On March 3, 2020, state leaders were preparing for the possibility of a large outbreak but had no way of knowing what was to come. The first case in someone who had traveled back to Wake County from Washington state.

It started off like any other day but the first positive COVID-19 test in North Carolina changed March 3, 2020, in an instant.

Gov. Roy Cooper called his first of many COVID-19 press conferences.

“I know that people are worried about this virus, and I want to assure North Carolinians our state is prepared," he said at the time. "Our most important work is keeping people healthy and safe."

Later that night he celebrated his primary election win with a crowd full of people -- social distancing and masking still unheard of at the time.

“Okay guys, I know everyone is in a celebratory mood tonight, but I want to reassure you that the health and safety of North Carolinians is my first priority as governor of this state,” he said to start his victory speech.

It took a few more weeks before the virus really started spreading, and impacts were felt in Mecklenburg County. The first known case in the county was detected on March 12, 2020.

“At that time, I don’t think we expected it to be what it has become. I think most of us were thinking this would be something containable,” Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County Health Director said.

Washington became Mecklenburg County health director in January 2022 after serving as county deputy health director. According to Washington's LinkedIn, he started as deputy health director in March 2020. 

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On March 27, Gov. Cooper issued a 30 day stay at home order, it was extended several times.

Since the very start of the pandemic, there have been more than 2.5 million positive cases in the state and 22,725 people have lost their lives.

“Given the uncertainty and what we didn’t know and where we are today and what we do know, we’re certainly in a much better position and have so many tools available to help us manage forward,” Washington said.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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