FILE - Coronavirus Outbreak

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19.

(The Center Square) – A man in his late 70s from Cabarrus County and a man in his 60s from Virginia have died from COVID-19 complications, marking North Carolina's first deaths from the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the deaths Wednesday morning.

The Cabarrus County man died Tuesday and had several underlying medical conditions, a news release from Gov. Roy Cooper's office said. The Virginia man was traveling through North Carolina. State officials did not disclose when that death occurred.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones," Cooper said in the news release. "This is a stark warning that for some people, COVID-19 is a serious illness. All of us must do our part to stop the spread by staying at home as much as possible and practicing social distancing.”

As of Wednesday morning, NCDHHS reported 504 COVID-19 cases statewide, with 12 of those cases being in Cabarrus County.

The disease has caused at least 785 deaths in the U.S., with more than 55,000 confirmed cases in the country. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.


Regional Editor

Jason Schaumburg is an award-winning, veteran editor who has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He spent a decade as the top editor in three northern Illinois newsrooms for Shaw Media and Pioneer Press.