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

Social Distancing Demonstrated Through Matches

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

  • As of Tuesday morning, at least 3,426 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in North Carolina and at least 53 people have died from the virus, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Health officials say there are currently 386 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 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.

Columbus County announced on April 2 that it will cease providing daily testing updates, per NCDHHS guidance. Health providers in the county are still required to report positive tests to the health department.

County Positive Test Results Negative Test Results Samples Taken for Testing Pending Tests Deaths Recovered
Bladen Co. (4/3, 5p) 1 n/a n/a n/a 0 n/a
Brunswick Co. (4/7, 5p) 26 673 830 131 1 13
Columbus Co. (4/8, 12p) 17 n/a n/a n/a 1 2
New Hanover Co. (4/7, 5p) 52 n/a n/a n/a 0 20
Pender Co. (4/7, 2:45p) 2 72 (as of 4/7) 89 (as of 4/7) 16 (as of 4/7) 0 n/a

‘STAY AT HOME’ ORDER:

  • Governor Roy Cooper issued a “stay at home” order for all North Carolina residents through April 29. Click here to read the signed order.
    • The order will allow you to move around for essential services, including your job, food shopping, medicine pick-up and outdoor exercise. It bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other.
  • New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington have enacted their own “stay at home” order to add more protection against COVID-19. Mandates in the order go beyond what Cooper issued to address issues unique to this area. Key points include:
    • NO curfew has been instated at this time.
    • Restaurants can remain open, but cannot allow customers inside to order or pick up food. All transactions must be done through curb-side pickup or delivery. See where you can get takeout or delivery
    • Parks and nature trails are open, though all public gardens are closed, as are playgrounds, sports facilities, restroom facilities and any other gathering places at those parks.
    • Beaches remain closed, and authorities are monitoring waterways to ensure social distancing measures are being followed.
    • Those with questions should call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at 910-798-6800, which is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Click here for more “stay at home” order FAQs answered by the county.
  • COLUMBUS COUNTY: A daily curfew will go into effect for the unincorporated parts of Columbus County from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., starting Wednesday, April 1.
    • The curfew does not affect those with a heath care emergencies, health care workers, emergency first responders, those traveling to or from work, or those assisting “with the emergency response to Coronavirus.”

PERSONAL HEALTH:

  • Anyone who thinks they have COVID-19 with mild symptoms should stay home and receive treatment via phone or video conference. Healthcare providers should assume these cases are positive.
  • A toll-free Hope Line has been established for older adults experiencing isolation from social distancing. You can call 1-866-578-4673 or 1-866-578-HOPE.
  • NC 211 will now provide up to date, free and confidential health information about resources in the community. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Click here for the complete list of North Carolina guidance
  • FAQ’s answered by the CDC

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 Wednesday, 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

Like dominoes, the beaches lining the Southeastern North Carolina coast have moved to reduce crowds and address concerns regarding the novel coronavirus.

Click here for information on area beach closures and related information.

UNIVERSITIES

All schools within the University of North Carolina System, including UNCW, NC State, UNC and ECU will ended in-person classes by March 20. Online courses begin March 23. The UNC system is working to refund students for unused housing and dining funds.

UNCW announced it is also canceling all non-athletic summer programs through June 24.

Bladen Community College transitioned to online classes March 23

Brunswick Community College will transition to online programming wherever possible beginning Saturday, March 14, 2020 through March 29, 2020. Workforce development courses and hands-on learning activities during this time period will be re-scheduled at a later date.

Cape Fear Community College will extend spring break for curriculum students one week, until March 23, 2020. The school will transition to online programs wherever possible beginning March 23, 2020.

Southeastern Community College transitioned to online learning where possible on March 28th.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

All K-12 public schools in North Carolina will be closed until May 15. Many school districts are offering online classes to fill the instructional void.

Bladen County Schools is providing daily updates on its website. The district has 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.

Starting Monday, April 6, , BCS will begin taking orders online to be added to delivery routes/ pickup sites for the following week of April 13-17. First, go to https://bcschildnutrition.com/ and fill out the online form (name, address, email, meal count). Second, the following weekend 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. For the week of April 6th-April 9th, the locations are street stops along the bus route. Some 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 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 will move to digital learning starting March 30. The district has set up a webpage for digital learning resources here.

New Hanover County Schools April 1 has been designated as a launch date for all courses. For traditional calendars, Spring Break will remain on April 6 through April 13. Spring Break remains unchanged on all other calendars. 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.

On Monday, April 6, school meal service sites will increase to 21 schools. Additionally, the district will be providing bus delivery to 48 neighborhood sites throughout eligible areas of our community to increase accessibility. A list of bus delivery sites and times can be found here.

Pender County Schools has approved a calendar change, moving spring break to March 30- April 3. Students will move into the distance learning curriculum on April 6. Officials with Pender County Schools have 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 will be 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. Students with internet access are encouraged to use Imagine Math for grades K-10 and Imagine Language and Literacy programs for grades K-6.

YWCA is offering 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.

GROCERY STORES

  • Publix will close all stores at 8 p.m. to allow staff to restock and clean.
  • Harris Teeter announced it will close its stores at 9 p.m. for the same reasons, and some locations are limiting the amounts of certain items each customer can buy.
  • Walmart stores will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., regardless if they were previously 24-hour “always-open” locations
  • Target stores will close by 9 p.m. and reserve the first hour of shopping each Wednesday to support vulnerable guests, including the elderly and those with underlying health concerns.

UTILITIES

  • CFPUA is temporarily suspending delinquency-related service disconnections. CFPUA is temporarily closing its facilities to the public effective 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 18. 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 1:00 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

Effective Saturday, March 20, 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 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
  • Hospital company police will be at all entrances, and all visitors will be asked a series of COVID-19 related screening questions before being allowed inside
  • Emergency department entrances and the Betty H. Cameron Women’s & Children’s Hospital entrance will remain open 24 hours per day
  • All other entrances to the hospital will close at 7 p.m.
  • At NHRMC’s 17th Street campus, no approved support people will be admitted between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • All non-essential surgeries have been postponed until further notice. NHRMC is contacting providers, who will contact affected patients that their procedures have been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later time. If a patient’s condition changes, the patient should contact their provider, who can re-evaluate the best way to proceed.

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 partner and a coach.
  • 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.
Coronavirus: What you need to know about handwashing

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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