By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • There were at least 20 known cases of coronavirus in Hoke County as of Tuesday, according to the Hoke County Health Department.
Several of the local cases involve military-connected residents. A number of others are healthcare employees who work outside of Hoke County. Some cases came from people traveling out of state.
Most of the coronavirus patients in Hoke have already recovered, according to Hoke County Health Department Director Helene Edwards. The others are apparently doing well, with some already out of self-isolation. At least one person is set to come out of isolation later this week.
“That’s one thing I keep looking at. We see the positive in our cases, they get better,” Edwards said.
The known COVID-19 cases connected to Hoke County include:
•A person who traveled to Georgia in March and tested positive at the VA hospital in Fayetteville
•Two healthcare employees who live in Hoke County, and work at a nursing home in Moore County that is currently experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19
•A military-connected person who tested positive at Womack
•Two Hoke residents who work in different healthcare facilities in other counties
•A veteran who tested positive at the VA medical center
•A contractor on Fort Bragg who tested positive at Womack and has two colleagues on Fort Bragg who were also sick
•A patient who became ill March 24 and has since recovered
•A man who caught the virus in New York and also infected his pregnant wife
•An 18-year-old and a 66-year-old who separately traveled to New York in early March
•A healthcare worker who tested positive April 1
•A contractor working in New York who has a Hoke address, but has not been back to the county in a while
•Two Fort Bragg/military-connected patients with Hoke home addresses
•The first local patient who tested positive March 18
Another person who works at the U.S. Post Office in Raeford has also tested positive for COVID-19.
Local efforts continue
Staff members at the Hoke County Health Department are doing their best to take things in stride, Edwards said.
“We’re doing pretty good. So far, knock on wood, we’re healthy and everybody’s in good spirits,” she said.
For now, they’re waiting to see what happens with the number of cases as the state moves toward an anticipated peak in late April or early May. After the peak, the spread of the virus could level off and begin to drop.
Meanwhile, Hoke County and city of Raeford government offices continue providing services with doors closed to the public. Some offices are seeing people by appointment. For a list of departments or contact information for county and city agencies, visit readyhoke.org and raefordcity.org.
All North Carolina public schools are closed until at least May 15. Hoke County Schools continued this week educating students through distance learning. The school system is also providing breakfast and lunch delivered to bus stops across the county.
Due to the situation, families won’t receive a report card for this grading period, school officials said. Families still can log on to PowerSchools to view their child’s grades.
Asked about plans for high school graduations and other end-of-year matters, Hoke Schools Superintendent Dr. Freddie Williamson said administrators have not made any decisions yet. SandHoke’s graduation usually takes place in late May, with Hoke High graduation in early to mid June.
“We are waiting to get a little closer to the May 15 date before we make final decisions,” Williamson said in an email Monday.
It’s possible that the governor could issue new executive orders to continue the mandatory guidelines past the original end date.
Governor says ‘put your foot on the gas’
Even as the number of cases of COVID-19 continues rising in Hoke County and North Carolina, people staying at home is making a difference, state health officials said.
“The evidence is overwhelming that right now, staying at home saves lives…we need people the next two weeks to really put their foot on the gas and to stay at home as much as possible here in order to slow the spread of the virus,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday.
Measures such as closing schools, shuttering non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay home are helping to keep hospitals from being slammed with an overload of very sick patients, according to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We are still seeing a slow rise in the number of new lab-documented COVID-19 cases,” she said Monday in a live-streamed press conference. “However, we are in fact achieving our goal of flattening the curve, having fewer people get sick at the same time. Our doubling time of new lab-documented cases is getting longer, and that’s a good thing.”
Even with increased testing catching more cases, efforts are slowing the rate of acceleration of new lab-documented cases, Cohen said.
“As we learn more from studies and models, the more we know that social distancing is our strongest weapon against COVID-19,” she said.
State health officials are tracking information such as the number of deaths from COVID-19, the number of new cases, the trends of hospitalizations and the availability of hospital beds, the governor said. Based on that information, it’s likely that preventative measures will stay in place for now.
“These models show consistently that our executive orders work, and that wholesale lifting of those orders would be a catastrophe,” Cooper said in a live-streamed press conference. “So we must continue to protect ourselves and our community as the spread accelerates.”
More than 5,000 people in all of North Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19 since the state’s first known case on March 3. More than 400 people in all of North Carolina are currently hospitalized for treatment due to the illness.
At least 108 people in North Carolina have died of coronavirus-related causes. None of the deaths were in Hoke County.
Additional statewide measures went into place Monday at 5 p.m., requiring grocery stores and other open retail businesses to take extra precautions to keep shoppers and employees safe. Now stores must limit the number of people inside at one time, among other measures. Many stores were already doing those things, but the executive order was meant to make it across the board for the entire state, Cooper said.
“People need to be able to buy groceries and medicine and other essentials without fear, and be able to protect themselves for the virus,” he said.
For now, citizens still need to keep following the guidelines: stay at least six feet away from others, wash your hands and stay at home. People have the power to bend the curve of the global pandemic, Cooper said.
“I know many days feel difficult in this new temporary world in which we find ourselves, but please know when you hit those bumpy spots, that what you are doing to stay home really matters,” he said.
•Text COVIDNC to 898211 to receive general information and updates about COVID-19 and North Carolina’s response.
•Dial 2-1-1 for free, confidential information to help find resources in the community. The helpline is available 24 hours a day and can connect people with groups that can help with questions about access to food, shelter, health care, employment and childcare.
•Families who need food assistance for their children can text FOODNC to 877-877 to find free meal sites in their communities.
•Optum has a toll-free 24-hour Emotional Support Help Line at 866-342-6892 for people who may be experiencing anxiety or stress due to coronavirus.
•The NCDHHS is posting information about COVID-19 at ncdhhs.gov.
•The News-Journal continues providing coronavirus coverage for Raeford and Hoke County online at www.hokenews.com.