By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • There are 15 known Hoke-connected cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to health officials.
Neighboring counties Moore and Cumberland are facing larger outbreaks. There are 72 known cases and one death in Cumberland, and 57 known cases in Moore. Many of the cases in Moore County are related to an outbreak of coronavirus identified at a nursing home.
At least 65 people in all of North Carolina have died of COVID-19 related causes, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. So far there have not been any coronavirus-related deaths in Hoke County.
Nearly 400 people across the state are hospitalized due to the virus. Officials have identified more than 3,600 known cases in all of North Carolina.
Many of the patients in Hoke who tested positive for COVID-19 have already recovered or are doing well in isolation, according to health officials.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday new social distancing policies that will go into effect for open retail stores Monday at 5 p.m.
The new restrictions order retail stores to only allow up to 20 percent of the building’s maximum capacity inside at one time. Fire codes set the limits for building maximum capacity.
The restrictions also order stores to mark six feet of distance in checkout lines. That allows customers to stay out of range of sneezes and coughs while waiting to check out. Retail store employees should also perform routine disinfection.
“This should make shopping safer for customers and retail employees, and help keep stores from becoming flashpoints for virus transmission,” Cooper said in a live streamed press conference.
Cooper additionally encouraged stores to make hand sanitizer available for customers, set aside shopping hours for seniors only, use shields at checkout counters and mark aisles as one-way to limit traffic.
Care for nursing home residents and staff
The governor also mandated more protective measures at nursing homes. There are outbreaks of coronavirus at nursing homes around the state that have sickened dozens of elderly residents. None of the nursing home outbreaks are in Hoke County.
The mandatory protective measures include banning dining and group activities in communal spaces; requiring employees to wear face masks; and requiring nursing homes to screen employees and staff for illness daily.
Cooper urged other long-term care facilities besides nursing homes to follow the same practices.
Unemployment claims near half a million
Nearly half a million people in North Carolina have filed for unemployment in the last few weeks, according to state officials.
Cooper announced his staff is working with the unemployment office to help make it easier for employers to file batches of claims. That should help unemployed workers get their benefits faster, the governor said.
“Every claim is important and represents an unemployed worker on the edge,” he said.
The state received updated guidelines from the federal government about how to distribute the extra $600 benefit payments in the federal CARES act. Those payments should start going out to people by the end of next week, Cooper said.
The governor urged people to continue to stay home over the holiday weekend. It’s still too risky to gather in groups, he said. The state remains under a stay-at-home order.
“Now is not the time to take a chance by gathering with extended family and friends,” he said.
For more information on resources to help families affected by COVID-19, call 2-1-1 to access the state’s helpline. The Department of Health and Human Services is updating its information daily online at ncddhs.gov. Hoke County local government is posting information at readyhoke.org.