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'We are not safe yet:' Guilford County Health Director says COVID-19 cases are growing

Dr. Iulia Vann was officially promoted to Guilford County's top health official in May - in the middle of a pandemic.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Imagine the biggest promotion of your career - in the middle of a career-defining pandemic. 

That's been the case for Guilford County's new health director, Dr. Iulia Vann. She held the position as interim director before the role became official in May 2020. 

In an interview Tuesday, she described the work as challenging, ever-changing, and motivating - now more than ever. As a public health professional, she understood that it was not a matter of if, but when, a pandemic would hit.

"It’s something that we are dreading, and we don’t want it to happen but at the same time, it is part of our training, and let’s say responsibility as public health professionals," Dr. Vann said. "It's kind of surreal sometimes when I think about it. I think about how this has come so fast and it’s hit us so fast and so strong."

As of Tuesday, she said the Health Department has confirmed 2,482 total positive cases, 323 total hospitalizations, 101 deaths, 1,418 total recoveries, and 963 active cases of coronavirus.

"We are not safe yet. We are not in a place where we don’t have to worry about COVID-19," she said. "We are seeing cases in Guilford County growing."

Over the next few months, she hopes to expand testing capacity even more by setting up more testing locations around the county. 

"Our goal is not to just offer more and more testing to everybody - but to bring our entire medical community to the point where they can perform COVID-19 tests just like they would any other test," said Dr. Vann. "As public health prevention professionals, and the pandemic response, to us that [diagnostic test] is the most critical point that we need to be aware of because that drives the investigation that happens for that particular positive case."

However, Dr. Vann said this isn't something medical professionals can tackle alone: they need community support. 

"We can put out the messages and we can do the testing and we can do case investigations, and we can work relentlessly all around the clock, but if we don’t have the support of our community, it’s really hard to see a positive impact," she said.

Dr. Vann says that support comes in the form of wearing a mask and social distancing.

"It's really hard for everybody to wrap their minds around the fact that things are different now. When is this going to end? When do we need to stop worrying about masks and about going into restaurants? The answer is - we don’t know."

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