COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States. The 2019-20 Influenza season (Oct ’19 –Apr ’20. 7 months) has taken the lives of 176 North Carolinians. In just over one month COVID has overtaken the flu death number and has accounted for 213 deaths in NC. COVID-19 outbreaks are now reported in five meat processing plants in NC at Mountaire (Chatham County), followed by Smithfield Foods (Bladen), Butterball (Duplin), Pilgrim’s Pride and Mountaire (Robeson).
By now you may have heard media discussions to ease COVID-19 “Stay at Home” restrictions. The challenge is: how do we do this while still protecting our community from a surge of cases that would overwhelm our healthcare system? Hopefully, this is not an insurmountable problem. We understand from State guidance we will need to consider three important issues: Testing, Tracing and Trends. What do they mean for Haywood County?
- Testing: We need to be able to increase our testing capacity as we carefully scale back “Stay at Home.” This includes acquiring adequate testing supplies and implementing a comprehensive testing strategy. The Health Department has convened a group to work on this project. We are working with funding partners to have the ability to perform tests locally. Our goal is to present this local testing strategy to the community by May 4.
- Tracing: Fortunately, Public Health is well-positioned to do this, and are already doing contact tracing for the limited numbers of people currently being tested. We have the ability to shift more personnel to help identify contacts and contain an outbreak if the number of cases spikes. There are specimen collection kits available specifically for contact tracing.
- NC DHHS is working with regional partners to test new digital tools (apps and links) to help contact tracing efforts. We’ll all find out how useful our phones (“proximity tracing tools”) might be to help jog memories of exposure incidents. Just like any newly launched innovation, we’ll also need to work through privacy and accuracy concerns among other issues that may come to mind.
- Trends: Policy decisions will be based on data that provides insight into the current conditions in the county, such as the number of new positive cases, hospitalizations, deaths, available supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), and hospital capacity among others. We will closely watch our local Haywood County trends to determine when we can ease up or when we might need to reinstitute distancing policies and other public health measures, with a particular emphasis on congregate living facilities, detention, healthcare workers and the unsheltered population.
- Haywood County Dental Office: Is open to emergency patients. Any Haywood County resident of any age who is experiencing dental pain or any type of dental emergency is welcomed. All patients are being diligently screened and triaged at our entrance. We are making all necessary provisions and following CDC guidelines to protect against any transmittable disease/viruses. The dental office at HCHHS accepts some private insurances as well as Medicaid and offers a sliding fee scale based on household income. Call 828-452-6701
- Credible COVID-19 Sources: The most up to date information and guidance can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html [cdc.gov] and https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-response-north-carolina [ncdhhs.gov], and https://www.haywoodcountync.gov/684/Coronavirus-Covid-19-Information
- Please share this email!
- White Board Message from Greg Shuping, Haywood County Emergency Manager: