THE LATEST: Things to know about COVID-19 in the Cape Fear

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - The intensifying spread of COVID-19 across the globe caused major events and large group gatherings to be canceled, people to stock up on disinfectants, and kept students at home.

Since the state loosened the criteria, more people are encouraged to get tested with or without symptoms. Find your nearest test site here.

  • As of Thursday, Aug. 6, the number of people that have died from COVID-19 in North Carolina has reached 2,092, according to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The total number of positive cases now stands at 131,267. Health officials say there are currently 1,147 people in the hospital with COVID-19, though that number is constantly changing.
    • After notification of a positive test result, local health departments contact the person to determine the location and potential close contacts while they were symptomatic, then contacts anyone identified as a “close contact.” If, through this investigative process, it is determined that a group of people that cannot be identified were at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 through interaction with a positive case, only then would a public notification be made. For example, the person with COVID-19 attended a concert or other large, crowded event.
    • NC DHHS is keeping up with the number of presumptive positive and confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in the state. These numbers are updated once a day. Click here for the totals.

Several counties have begun releasing testing information daily.

County Positive Test Results Negative Test Results Samples Taken for Testing Pending Tests Deaths Recovered
Bladen Co. (8/6) 603 n/a n/a n/a 6 493
Brunswick Co. (8/6) 1,231 n/a n/a n/a 19 914
Columbus Co. (8/6) 868 n/a 10,246 n/a 48 709
New Hanover Co. (8/6) 2,600 n/a n/a n/a 20 295
Pender Co. (8/6) 640 3,921 4,615 54 3 572

‘STAY AT HOME’ ORDER:

As part of Phase 2, the following businesses will be allowed to open under certain requirements:

  • Restaurants can re-open for dine-in customers at mostly a 50% capacity, with distancing and cleaning requirements.
  • Personal care businesses like salons and barbers can also re-open at 50% capacity. These businesses will have face covering and cleaning requirements while also reducing the number of people in the waiting areas.
  • Swimming pools will be able to open at 50% capacity.
  • Overnight & day camps can open with safety rules.
  • Childcare facilities remain open and are now able to enroll all children.

The mass gathering limits in Phase 2 will now be no more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors.

The mass gathering limit does not apply to worship, religious, and spiritual gatherings, funerals or weddings ceremonies, but individuals are encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines and to follow the Three Ws to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19. The mass gathering limit will still apply to visitation and reception before or after funeral and wedding ceremonies.

Cooper said the following businesses will remain closed: bars, night clubs, gyms, indoor fitness facilities, and indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys and public playgrounds.

PERSONAL HEALTH:

UNEMPLOYMENT

STIMULUS BILL NEED TO KNOW:

  • Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment.
  • Parents with children who are 16 years old and younger will receive $500 per child.
  • If you are on unemployment assistance, you will get another $600 per week on top of the amount your state already pays.
  • The income levels are based on tax returns for 2019. For those who have not yet filed their taxes this year, it will be based on 2018 returns.
  • The vast majority of people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the economic impact payment to those eligible.
  • NEW: The Treasury announced in a reversal, that Social Security beneficiaries who typically do not file a tax return will automatically receive the $1,200 payment.
  • Click here for more FAQs answered by the IRS

BEACH CLOSURES

The beaches lining the Southeastern North Carolina coast are reopening.

Click here for information on area beach information.

UNIVERSITIES

All schools within the University of North Carolina System, including UNCW, NC State, UNC and ECU ended in-person classes, March 20. The UNC system is working to refund students for unused housing and dining funds.

Bladen Community College transitioned to online classes March 23.

Brunswick Community College transitioned to online programming March 14.

Cape Fear Community College transitioned to online programs March 23.

Southeastern Community College transitioned to online learning March 28.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

The 2019-2020 school year has ended for all K-12 public schools in North Carolina. April 24 Gov. Cooper closed all K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year.

Bladen County Schools provides daily updates on its website. The district set up wi-fi hotspots at several locations in the county. Click here to see the locations.

Brunswick County Schools provides daily updates on its website. The district also has a page dedicated to online education resources.

Beginning April 6, BCS began taking orders online to be added to delivery routes/ pickup sites for food. First, go to https://bcschildnutrition.com/ and fill out the online form (name, address, email, meal count). Second, check the bus route and info link (https://bit.ly/BCSBusRoutesNewLocations or http://media.bcswan.net/liveweb/webquery/) to see where and when to expect your delivery each day. Some stops are at homes and if the bus can’t get down a particular street, the bus is stopping at the closest street possible. Families must place your order by Wednesday to receive your meals the following week. This allows our Transportation Department enough time to create the safest routes and times for pickup/dropoff.

Those who do not have the ability to do online form can call their school and leave a detailed voicemail with their needs and staff will be in contact.

The three high schools will continue to provide drive-thru meal pickup.

Columbus County Schools set up a webpage for digital learning resources here.

New Hanover County Schools lunch and breakfast for the following day must be pre-ordered, either online, through the Meals Plus app, or by phone. Phone orders can be placed by contacting the Child Nutrition Department at 910-254-2212.

Additionally, the district provides bus delivery to 48 neighborhood sites throughout eligible areas of the community to increase accessibility. A list of bus delivery sites and times can be found here.

Pender County Schools approved a distance learning curriculum on April 6. Officials with Pender County Schools installed wi-fi hotspots at the county’s three traditional high schools to help students stay connected to their teachers. Click here to see how it works.

School buses in Pender County drop off meals at dozens of locations throughout the county for students in need. Click here for more details.

Whiteville City Schools used learning packets: Imagine Math for grades K-10 and Imagine Language and Literacy programs for grades K-6.

YWCA and YMCA offers childcare to employees of essential businesses and the state has opened a hotline to help.

EVENTS CANCELLED OR POSTPONED

Local

  • Azalea Festival canceled, however, two of the main stage musical acts have been rescheduled:
    • Sublime with Rome and Michael Franti & Spearhead will take place on Friday, Oct. 16
    • The Avett Brothers with Chatham County Line will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17
  • The White Lake Water Festival has been rescheduled for August 21-22
  • The Wilson Center has announced that some shows postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak have been rescheduled.
  • The 2020 Orange Street ArtsFest has been moved to Labor Day weekend.
  • The Downtown Sundown Concert series has been postponed.

UTILITIES

  • CFPUA is temporarily suspending delinquency-related service disconnections. CFPUA will begin offering limited hours for in person business at its 235 Government Center Drive offices. Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, customers will be able to make in-person payments and submit applications to move or transfer an account. Customer service staff still will be available by phone at 910-332-6550 during regular business hours. Customers can pay their bills by the following methods: by phone at 910-332-6550; online at www.CFPUA.org; the Customer Self-Service Portal or the Customer Service Contact Form.
  • CFPUA also advises customers to NOT flush sanitizing wipes or paper towels down toilets. Even wipes marketed as “flushable” are not toilet-friendly.
  • Duke Energy will not disconnect any customer’s service for non-payment.
  • Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation is closing all three of its offices to walk-in traffic. Drive-through service will continue. Payments can be made by calling 866-934-6830, logging into its SmartHub app, or at one of BEMC’s Bill Payment Terminals. All disconnects for nonpayment will be suspended, effective immediately.
  • Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO has temporarily suspended service disconnections.

COUNTY LIBRARIES

TRANSPORTATION

  • Wave Transit’s fixed route bus and ADA accessible van transportation services will continue in accordance with posted schedules. Padgett Station on 3rd street is closed to customers, and Forden Station is only offering Greyhound services. UNCW Seahawk Shuttle services have been suspended indefinitely.
  • Uber has suspended shared rides.

COURT SYSTEMS

Brunswick County Courthouse hours have been reduced to 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting April 6.

Beginning Wednesday, April 8, 2020, the New Hanover County Clerk of Courts Office will be open between the hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.

SHERIFF’S AND POLICE OFFICES, JAILS AND PRISONS

  • The North Carolina Division of Prisons will suspend visitation to all the state’s prisons effective Monday, March 16.
  • The Bladen County Detention Center will suspend visitation and non-criminal fingerprinting until further notice. Attorney/client visitation and pastoral visitation will be allowed with brief screenings to include temperature before admission into the facility.
  • The Brunswick County Jail will be closed to the public, effective immediately. As of Tuesday, the sheriff’s office is temporarily suspending fingerprinting services with the exception of those applying or a concealed carry permit. Gun permits will continue to be processed by appointment only.
  • The New Hanover County Jail has canceled in-person visitations, special visitations, non-sheriff’s office clergy visitations, all programs and classes, outside work detail for inmates, and weekenders/quick dip holds.
  • The Pender County Jail will be closed for inmate visitation. Anyone wishing to send money to an inmate can do so via jailatm.com. Effective, Thursday, March 19, the sheriff’s office will suspend all non-criminal fingerprinting. Any new pistol purchase permits and concealed carry permit renewals will continue to be processed.
  • The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office has postponed all fingerprinting appointments until March 30. Visitation at the Detention Center has been cancelled for 30 days starting March 16. No incident reports will be taken inside of the Sheriff’s Office. If you wish to file a report, please call 911. The only visitors to the Sheriff’s Office, at this time, should be individuals for gun purchase permits and those wishing to pick up or renew their concealed handgun permit.
  • The Sunset Beach Police Department has suspended its fingerprinting service. The SBPD is asking citizens with a complaint or concern to reach out to the department by phone or another electronic means of communication.
  • The Wilmington Police Department is now restricting public access to its buildings’ lobbies due to Coronavirus precautions. While the public cannot access the main lobbies they still have access to an enclosed vestibule at the front of each building. A phone inside the enclosed area will allow the public to contact the front desk officer and discuss their needs. If there is a need for an individual to come into the lobby, the officer will then grant access remotely and require the individual to sign-in. The Wilmington Police Department’s stations are located at 615 Bess Street and 2451 S. College Road. These stations will remain open 24 hours a day. This protocol will remain in effect until further notice.
  • The Carolina Beach Police Department will continue to answer emergency calls. In case of an emergency, please dial 911. Emergency calls will be handled in person; however, if an officer is meeting you at your home or business, you may be asked to file a report outside of the building.3. For non-emergency calls, dial 910-452-6120. If possible, reports for smaller offenses may be handled over the phone. The department’s offices will be open during normal business hours (8 a.m.-5 p..m), but public access is limited. Visitors can use the direct line to the 911 Center located at the exterior of the police station entrance. The 911 Center dispatcher can summon an on-duty police officer. Administrative staff is accessible by phone during normal business hours at 910-458-2540. The department’s prescription drug drop-off program is temporarily suspended. The employment fingerprinting service is currently suspended.

HOSPITAL GUIDELINES

As of March 27, visitors will not be allowed at any NHRMC hospital, physician office, or facility. NHRMC has outlined some exceptions to allow limited support persons who are free of flu-like symptoms to accompany patients. Those exceptions include the following:

  • Patients under the age of 18 may have one parent/guardian/advocate
  • Patients at NHRMC Emergency Departments may have 1 support person with unit approval
  • NICU patients may have both parents present
  • Pediatric patients may have one parent/guardian/advocate
  • Women in our birthplace areas may have one support partner
  • Patients scheduled for a surgery or procedure may have one person accompany them during registration and available to pick them up following treatment. This support person will not be able to wait in the hospital facility.
  • Patients with special circumstances can request an individual exception from their care team
  • At NHRMC’s 17th Street campus, no approved support people will be admitted between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • The New Hanover Regional Medical Center system plans to reopen the first phase of surgical services and diagnostic testing on Monday, May 4.

Wilmington Health began COVID-19 swab testing at two outdoor sites on April 20. They also opened a facility to prevent overflow at hospitals and emergency rooms called Today’s Care+.

Pender Memorial Hospital is under mandatory visitor restrictions with exceptions for limited support persons who are free of flu-like symptoms in the following cases:

  • Patients under the age of 18 may have one parent/guardian/advocate
  • Patients at NHRMC Emergency Departments may have 1 support person with unit approval
  • Patients with special circumstances can request an individual exception from their care team
  • As of 12 p.m. on Friday, March 20, no visitors will be permitted in acute care facilities except for laboring mothers and patients who are minors (under 18). Laboring mothers may have one partner and one birth support person accompany them. Minors under 18 may have one visitor, parent or guardian.
  • Visitors must be 13 or older unless needing medical care.
  • Visitors must be healthy (no cough, fever or flu-like symptoms).
  • Visitor restrictions do not apply to those seeking care
  • Additional exceptions may be granted in special circumstances such as end-of-life care
  • Entrances and exits to hospitals will be limited to centralize the foot traffic of patients, visitors, and team members.
  • All nonessential doors will be temporarily closed
  • Novant is rescheduling non-essential surgeries, procedures, and ambulatory appointments, effect Wednesday, March 18. Any emergency and essential services will continue uninterrupted.
  • Do not visit if you have a cough, sore throat or fever
  • If you have been sick, do not visit until you are 48 hours symptom-free
  • Visitors will be limited to one (1) immediate family member
  • Must be 12 years of age or older.
  • All volunteer activity has been suspended through March 27, to be reviewed at that time, for extension or ending.
  • Before visiting our emergency department, urgent care or clinics, please call ahead so that we can plan safety precautions to protect our patients and staff.
  • Testing supplies are limited. You will be screened and evaluated before a test is administered.
  • All eat-in dining at the hospital cafeteria has been suspended
  • All Cape Fear Valley hospitals will allow patients to have one support person present for the entirety of the patient’s stay. The new restriction does not apply to pediatric patients, which will be allowed two support people. Designated support people will be given visitor arm bands that must remain on for duration of the hospitalization. No other visitors will be allowed for that patient.
  • Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital’s Long-Term Acute Care (LTAC) Unit will not allow visitors. The restriction is due to LTAC patients’ higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
  • The health system will begin temperature screening patients and visitors at all visitor entrances in the coming days. Visitors will not be admitted if they have a fever.
  • Entrance doors will be locked between 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly, except for the Emergency Department entrance. Health system staff can continue to use their identification badges at employee entrances.
  • CRHS is not allowing visitors, unless they meet one of the exceptions.
  • Patients under the age of 18 in the hospital may have one parent/guardian.
  • No visitors for patients in the CRHS Emergency Department with the exception of patients under the age of 18 who may have one parent/guardian or patients with ED care team approval.
  • Women having a baby may have one support person.
  • Patients having surgery may have one support person.
  • Patients who need a healthcare decision maker may request an individual exception from their care team.
  • Any permitted visitors must be 18 or older and have no flu-like symptoms (cough, fever, or shortness of breath).
  • Hospital entrances will be temporarily limited, and those that are open will be secured and all visitors are subject to a COVID-19 screening questions before being allowed in the facility.
  • Visitation hours are limited to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. All entrances will be closed at 7 a.m., with the exception of the emergency department, which will remain open 24 hours per day.
  • All non-essential surgeries and visits have been postponed until further notice. Patients are being contacted by their providers to reschedule. If a patient’s condition changes, the patient should contact their provider to determine the appropriate way to proceed.

The World Health Organization recommends using the following methods to reduce the exposure and transmission of coronavirus and other illnesses:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Use a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing and sneezing to cover your mouth. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.
  • Avoid direct contact with live animals and surfaces they may have touched when visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases.

FACTS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS

Different symptoms for the coronavirus, flu and allergies
Different symptoms for the coronavirus, flu and allergies (Source: CDC/Gray Media)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the coronavirus is spread mainly from person-to-person by those in close contact, or through coughing and sneezing by someone who’s infected.

Symptoms of coronavirus can show up between two and 14 days of exposure, health officials say. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. They can be mild to severe, and in some cases can lead to death.

Those who are at the highest risk of catching COVID-19 are the young, the elderly and those who are already being treated for chronic medical diseases.

Doctors say there is not currently a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, but over-the-counter medications, like cold and cough medicines, can help treat symptoms of the virus.

The mortality rate for people with the virus has been widely reported around 2 to 3%, but health experts note the actual percentage is not that high, as not all cases are diagnosed or reported. he rate is higher than the flu, which kills on average about 0.1% of people who get it, based on a 10-year average of data from the CDC.

RELATED STORIES

Residents in North Carolina who have questions and concerns about coronavirus may call the Coronavirus Line at 1-866-462-3821.

The helpline is staffed by North Carolina Poison Control officials 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nurses and pharmacists handling the calls can help people know:

  • How coronavirus is spread
  • Whether or not a person is at risk
  • What precautions can be taken to prevent the spread of the virus
  • What the symptoms of coronavirus are
  • What to do if coronavirus is suspected

INFORMATION HOTLINES

  • Brunswick County has set up its own hotline — 910-253-2339 — for residents where county nurses will available to answer questions and provide information about the virus. The phone line will be available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until further notice. Brunswick County residents can also email coronavirus@brunswickcountync.gov with any questions. Emails sent over the weekend will be answered on the next business day.
  • Residents in New Hanover County can call 910-798-6800, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until further notice. The center is meant for all questions and concerns people might have pertaining to the virus.
  • Bladen County has activated two hotlines for people having questions about the coronavirus - 910-872-6291 and 910-872-6292. The hotlines numbers are staffed between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

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