Plans for additional public health measures at this year’s MerleFest in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) were announced today by Ted Hagaman, festival director.

Also, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) today said a Chatham County resident tested positive for COVID-19. It’s the state’s second COVID-19 case. The first was a resident of Wake County, which adjoins Chatham.

“The news about the Coronavirus is unsettling for all of us,” said Hagaman in the statement released today. “We have been monitoring this since day one and will continue to do so. Our plan at the present is to stay the course for MerleFest 2020.”

The annual Americana music festival, with Window World as presenting sponsor, is April 23-26 at Wilkes Community College.

Hagaman said MerleFest organizers are working with local health and safety officials to implement extra public health measures at MerleFest 2020, including tripling the number of hand wash locations across the festival grounds and enhancing custodial and maintenance personnel to continually wipe down door handles, bathrooms and water fountains.

He said this cleaning and sanitizing will be done with cleaning chemicals approved by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“A lot can happen in the coming weeks and our hope is that the virus will slow down or diminish by festival time,” said Hagaman.

“We'll continue to follow guidance from the CDC as well as state and local health officials, and will certainly be in touch with ticket holders and fans by email, website and social media should anything change. Thank you and we hope to see you in April,” said Hagaman in a statement also posted on the MerleFest website (

DHHS said the COVID-19 case announced today was a man who had traveled to an area of Italy in late February now with a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak. DHHS said the man is doing well and is in isolation at his home in Chatham County.

The Georgia Department of Health told North Carolina health officials that the Chatham County man had contact with a COVID-19 case in Georgia. “He had two days of mild, flu-like symptoms while in Italy. His fever resolved and symptoms were improving, and he flew back to the United States the following day.”

The COVID-19 test conducted by the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health on the man was presumptively positive and will be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab for confirmation, DHHS reported.

“Chatham County Public Health Department officials conducted a home visit and collected specimens, which came back presumptively positive last night. The man has been cooperative and will remain in home isolation until follow-up tests turn out negative. The Chatham County Public Health Department will work to identify close contacts to monitor symptoms,” DHHS stated.

“Since the man had symptoms before travel, the CDC will identify close contacts on the flight thought to be at risk and notify the appropriate public health agencies. To protect individual privacy, no further information about the identity of the person will be released.”

While awaiting CDC confirmation of results, presumptive cases are being treated as positive and CDC guidelines are being followed with them to protect public health and limit the spread of infection, DHHS stated.

“Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets (from sneezing or coughing), North Carolinians should take the same measures that health care providers recommend to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and covering coughs and sneezes,: DHHS stated.

Last month, Gov. Roy Cooper established a task force for the state’s ongoing efforts to monitor, prepare for and respond to COVID-19. The state’s actions include:

• launching cross-agency preparation work in January;

• putting together an aggressive containment strategy of rapid identification of suspected cases, testing and contact tracing;

• began testing cases at the State Laboratory of Public Health to have faster results and response;

• monitoring travelers returning from China through local health departments;

• developing detailed response plans for different scenarios;

• regularly communicating with federal, state and local partners;

• preparing health care providers and facilities to streamline and standardize response activities, including regular calls and mobilizing resources.

• sharing and updating guidelines on how to proactively prepare and respond, including guidelines for health care providers, child care, employers, schools, colleges and universities and others;

• activating a Joint Information Center to provide timely information;

• maintaining an up-to-date website with information about COVID-19 disease, risk and guidance;

• staffing a COVID-19 phone line to answer urgent questions from the public.

North Carolinians with questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call the COVID-19 phone line toll-free at 866-462-3821. This helpline is staffed by the North Carolina Poison Control 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

DHHS said citizens should try to make sure information they get about COVID-19 is directly from reliable sources like the CDC and DHHS.

For more details, go to the CDC’s website at and the DHHS website at Future positive COVID-19 test results in North Carolina will be announced on the DHHS website.

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(3) comments


I think Merlefest should be canceled this year. It seems very irresponsible to bring thousands of people from all over into Wilkes County, considering the outbreak of Covid-19 is gaining momentum.


It will have all but disappeared by then due to the seasonal change just like the flu. This is nothing new, only something for the masses to freak out over for nothing.


Italy has banned weddings and funerals for 16 million people. Japan has closed schools for a month. France and Iraq have banned public gatherings. The U.N. has canceled all physical meetings to address climate change. Hmmmm Do you think we should have a massive bluegrass festival and draw thousands of people from all over the country/world to Wilkes County? I was looking forward to the festival. Looks like a great lineup this year. Hard pass. See you next year.

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