CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. -- At least 18 COVID-19 cases have been linked to four small gatherings in one North Carolina County.
Though most of the gatherings had less than 10 people, and therefore were within the guidelines of Gov. Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order, health officials said they were big enough to start outbreaks of the virus.
"We have encountered some positive cases where when we talked with them, they had very small family gatherings," Dr. Bonnie Coyle, director of Cabarrus Health Alliance, told ABC-affiliate WLOS.
Coyle said she could not release any details about the gatherings, but county officials said they included a wedding, birthday parties and an Easter family gathering.
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"We're in the middle of the process," Coyle said. "It's going well. As long as individuals listen to our message that it's really important that you stay in your house, that you do not go anywhere, then we will do well."
All 18 patients are currently in quarantine while health officials track down any recent close contacts. So far, officials have identified 35 people who were within six feet of the infected people in the 48 hours before they started to show symptoms.
Cabarrus Health Alliance officials said they're starting to see a growing number of cases following small gatherings.
"One of the most frustrating things for our new positive cases is that they tell us, 'Yeah, I had a party this weekend,' or, 'I had a get-together this weekend,'" Dr. Natasha Mofrad with Cabarrus Health Alliance's clinical investigation team told WLOS. "Some people are feeling more comfortable and they are starting to have small gatherings, and then we're seeing many people getting sick."
While Gov. Cooper's order permits private gatherings of 10 people or less, North Carolinians are urged not to leave their homes or have contact with anyone outside of their household, unless they are taking care of family members or friends who need help in another household. Weddings and funerals are permitted under the stay-at-home order, as long as social distancing guidelines are met.
Coronavirus: Birthday parties, weddings, Easter celebrations linked to COVID-19 outbreaks in North Carolina county