New Hanover County Prepares For Coronavirus: Gov. Cooper Declares State Of Emergency

New Hanover County Prepares For Coronavirus: Gov. Cooper Declares State Of Emergency

New Hanover County Prepares For Coronavirus: Gov. Cooper Declares State Of Emergency Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 10 March 2020 17:04

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners heard an update from Lisa Brown - Public Health Preparedness Coordinator for New Hanover County - regarding how the County is preparing for the potential of future cases of Coronavirus in the area.

She explained, "What we've seen globally is that 80% of the cases tend to be mild. They can look somewhat flu-like with a fever, dry cough, shortness of breathe. However, for those in our community that are older or that have underlying health conditions, we are more concerned they could have more serious complications. So that is something that we are actively monitoring, planning and offering guidance on."

She explained, "Currently in New Hanover County there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19."

As of Tuesday March 10th, there were 7 cases confirmed in North Carolina primarily in the Wake County area near Raleigh.

On March 10th, the total number of cases in the U.S. was 971 with 28 deaths and 8 who recovered. The global count Tuesday was 119,004 at 10:30pm with 4,284 deaths.

County Emergency Manager Steven Still explained the County has current plans  in place for the flu and other viruses that they modified to address the current situation.

He explained, "The first objective of this plan is to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and to minimize illness, suffering and loss of life. Objective two is to promote early detection of COVID-19. Objective three is to facilitate an organized and coordinated response by public health and other community partners. Objective four is to minimize the economic loss, psychological toll and social disruption of a pandemic. Objective five is to promote preservation and continuity of the central government operations."

Still said a large group of officials from around the County met recently to discuss future plans and, "What does it look like going forward if we are to see an increased risk of community transmission."

He said, "I feel that our staff has worked really hard to make sure that our partners are really informed and also our community is very informed."

County official Kate Oelslager said they are meeting with area organizations including senior centers, the board of education and many others to communicate efforts taken with regards to the potential spread of the virus.

Oelslager said, "Just to remind us all, some of our key messages are to practice those protective measures that you do with any respiratory illness.

So wash your hands, cover your mouth, stay home and away from others when you are sick" and, "Make a plan , build a kit and stay informed so that we are ready if COVID-19 impacts our area and we have to stay home for a few days to make sure that ourselves and those at risk populations are protected."

Oelslager said when there is a local case of the virus, the County will work with local media and other organizations to alert the public.

County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield questioned how the County is interfacing with the North Carolina State Port for overseas shipping operations from various countries. He explained, "We are one of two cities in the State that have a state port. How are we interfacing with our state port" and, "How are we interfacing with them to educate them on how to protect themselves as well."

Still explained the County has been communicating with NC Port officials and he feels comfortable with their efforts. Ships entering the Port of Wilmington typically stop at another port prior to Wilmington and are examined by U.S. Customs officials at those ports before visiting Wilmington.

Barfield said his daughter has been studying in Italy and, "She flew home last Tuesday and has been self quarantining. Now that, that whole area is pretty much shut down, but to see this little kid come back home and cry because she was really wanting to be there through May and have that experience" gave him insight into what may happen here.

Governor Roy Cooper took the next step in the state’s coronavirus COVID-19 preparedness plan March 10th,  and issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency. The declaration activates the Emergency Operations Center to help agencies coordinate from one location and makes it easier to purchase needed medical supplies, protect consumers from price gouging, and increase county health departments’ access to state funds.

“The health and safety of North Carolinians is our top priority. We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that North Carolina is prepared and responding to this virus, and this order helps us do that,” said Governor Cooper. “Though we are still in the early stages in North Carolina, time is a valuable resource and we must work together to slow the spread while we can.”

Key provisions in the order are similar to those enacted in a natural disaster. The order will help with the cost burdens and supplies that may be difficult for providers and public health to access due to increased demand. It also increases the state public health department’s role in supporting local health departments, which have been tasked with monitoring quarantines, tracing exposure and administering testing.

Today’s updated NC DHHS recommendations are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current actions by other states, and the most up-to-date epidemiologic information available to protect the public’s health. Many of the recommendations are targeted at protecting people at high risk of severe illness, which includes adults over 65 years, those with underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, or with weakened immune systems.

Additional recommendations are being made for residents of the Triangle region. On March 9, 2020, NC DHHS confirmed 5 new cases of COVID-19 in Wake County, increasing the total in the county to 6 and statewide to 7.

“We all play a role in keeping our communities safe and healthy. These precautions can help us slow the spread of this virus and protect our more vulnerable neighbors,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “Let’s be guided by compassion and reason and work to support each other as a community.”

The following recommendations pertain to persons and establishments STATEWIDE.

HIGH-RISK PERSONS

NC DHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 avoid large groups of people as much as possible. This includes gatherings such as concert venues, conventions, church services, sporting events, and crowded social events. People at high risk should also avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

ADULT CONGREGATE LIVING FACILITIES

NC DHHS recommends that all facilities that serve as residential establishments for high-riskpersons described above should restrict visitors. These establishments include nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correctional facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

MASS GATHERING EVENTS

NC DHHS recommends that event organizers:
• Urge anyone who is sick to not attend.
• Encourage those who are at high risk, described above, to not attend.
• Adopt lenient refund policies for people who are high risk.
• Find ways to give people more physical space to limit close contact as much as possible.
• Encourage attendees to wash hands frequently.
• Clean surfaces with standard cleaners.

ALL TRAVELERS

NC DHHS recommends that all travelers returning from countries and US states impacted by COVID-19 follow DHHS guidance on self-monitoring: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-response-north-carolina/coronavirus

The following recommendations pertain to persons and establishments in the TRIANGLE area.

WORKPLACE SETTINGS

NC DHHS recommends that employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible. Additionally, employers should:
• Urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.
• Consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.

MASS GATHERINGS, COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL EVENTS

NC DHHS recommends that organizers of mass gathering events that primarily draw high-risk persons, including those that attract older adults, should consider cancelling or postponing these events.
Currently, NC DHHS is not recommending pre-emptive school closures.

The recommendations should begin immediately and extend through March 31, 2020. NC DHHS will monitor the situation closely to determine whether to extend the recommendations beyond March 31st.

These measures were announced at a press conference today with Governor Cooper and members of the state’s Coronavirus Task Force.

It is important to make sure the information you are getting about COVID-19 is coming directly from reliable sources like the CDC and NCDHHS.

For more information, please visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and NCDHHS’ website at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus , which will also include future positive COVID-19 test results in North Carolina.

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