Statement from Chatham County Public Health Director on anniversary of first COVID-19 case

Pittsboro, NC – The Chatham County Public Health Department released a press statement attributing the following to Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek:

“Today marks one year since COVID-19 was first identified in Chatham County. The past year has brought many challenges to all of us and the virus has taken a heavy toll on the Chatham community, as it has across the world. More than 4,000 Chatham residents have tested positive for COVID-19, including a disproportionate number of Hispanic/Latinx residents, especially early in the pandemic. In the past year, 78 people who called Chatham home have passed away from the virus, most of whom were residents of skilled nursing facilities. Our routines have changed greatly, we have grown accustomed to wearing masks and we all long for a return to normalcy.

The largest percentage of coronavirus deaths in Chatham County were among White non-Hispanic citizens. (Source: NCDHHS)

“As I reflect on the past year, I am so grateful to so many for all they have done to fight the pandemic. First, to our public health staff, who have worked long hours through challenging situations unlike anything we have experienced before. They have withstood crisis after crisis this past year and are true public servants and heroes. Their dedication, compassion, expertise, and ingenuity have saved many lives. I am honored to serve with them.

Over half of the 78 coronavirus deaths took place in two Chatham County nursing homes. (Source: NCDHHS)

“To our partners and volunteers, who have been essential to COVID-19 response efforts, including vaccinations. Chatham County Emergency Management has been right beside us this entire year while also responding to other emergencies, including the cyber incident. The Chatham Community Emergency and Response Team (CERT) has made hosting large-scale vaccination events possible. Many, many county agencies, organizations and volunteers have played major roles in the pandemic response, from sharing important public health messages to drawing and administering vaccine at our clinics.

Over half of the coronavirus deaths in Chatham County occurred among those over 65 years of age. (Source: NCDHHS)

“And finally, to the Chatham County community. Although we have not been spared from the virus these last several months, we have not seen the rates of infection that most other counties have. Chatham residents have risen to this unprecedented challenge, wearing their masks and avoiding gatherings despite the inconvenience. Our vaccination rates are currently among the highest in the state. While some local public health departments have faced attacks and harassment, we have felt overwhelming support from residents and County leadership who have taken the virus seriously since the pandemic began. 

(Source: NCDHHS)

“Along with this deep sense of gratitude, I ask the Chatham community to keep up the fight until the end. With COVID-19 vaccinations increasing and cases on the decline, I am hopeful that we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a difficult winter. But this past year has taught us that we are still dealing with a highly infectious and dangerous virus that wants to spread. Now is not the time to let our guard down. In honor of the 78 Chatham residents who are no longer with us one year later, let’s continue to practice the 3 Ws, get vaccinated when it is our turn, and keep looking out for each other.”

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and the CCPHD’s vaccination plans, visit To learn more about the Chatham County Public Health Department, visit or