By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • As of Tuesday there were 25 known positive cases of COVID-19 in Hoke County. Many of the people who tested positive in March have already recovered from the illness. So far Hoke hasn’t seen local person-to-person community spread, according to the Hoke County Health Department.
The known cases of COVID-19 in Hoke include:
•Two juvenile siblings who tested positive at Scotland Memorial Hospital
•A 44-year-old woman who tested positive at FirstHealth of the Carolinas in Raeford
•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.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and state health officials are in discussions about how and when to begin reopening the state.
“We are working to ease restrictions in a responsible way, in a staged way,” Cooper said Tuesday in a live streamed press conference.
Health officials want to avoid causing a spike in the number of cases of COVID-19 that could overwhelm hospitals with very ill patients. So far preventative measures have worked to avoid that in N.C., officials said.
Cooper’s executive orders shutting down businesses and ordering people to stay at home expire at the end of April. The orders also closed public schools until May 15.
The executive orders were in response to the “extraordinary situation,” Cooper said, but they came with drawbacks and impacts on families.
“I’m glad that we did that. I think that we have saved countless numbers of lives. I also know how frustrated and anxious people are about wanting to get back to school and get back to work, and at the same time I know how anxious families are about wanting to make sure they are safe,” the governor said.
The governor’s office plans to release more information this week and next week on what has to happen for the state to take the next steps toward easing the restrictions.
From the governor’s press conference Tuesday:
•Testing capacity and case contact tracing are key to reopening the state, but Cooper said North Carolina doesn’t yet meet the criteria provided by the federal government. The 14 laboratories in North Carolina are “working furiously” to ramp up testing capacity as much as possible. Over 80,000 COVID-19 tests have been run in N.C.
•Expect an announcement soon about when schools might be able to reopen, and details about how that process might work. (Additionally, The News-Journal staff plans to speak with Hoke school officials Wednesday about graduation ceremonies and other matters. We’ll provide updates when that happens.)
•To expand COVID-19 case contact tracing, the state is planning to join forces with an as-yet-unidentified partner organization. The state also plans to hire more employees in the near future to conduct contact tracing. The state may also seek additional federal support. More details on this could be coming later this week.
Pandemic EBT help
More help is on the way for families with children. Pandemic-EBT or P-EBT benefits of $250 will go out to families with children who already receive EBT. New EBT cards will go out to families with children who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch. North Carolina was approved this week for the federally funded program. Eligible families don’t need to apply for the program.
Both Mountaire Farms and the House of Raeford have held bulk chicken sales direct to the public. Mountaire Farms’ recent sale in Raeford Saturday sold out of chicken. Some of the proceeds went to help support the Hoke rescue squad. To keep an eye out for future bulk chicken sales, visit https://www.facebook.com/MountaireFarms and https://www.houseofraeford.com.
Mental health help
People in North Carolina struggling with the crisis can call a free helpline to receive mental health support services. Call 1-855-587-3463, 24 hours a day to be connected with help.
Healthcare workers in the state who are struggling can also reach a special mental health support line meant just for medical staffers. Call 919-226-2002.
Local info and updates
For more information on coronavirus, visit www.ncdhhs.gov or call 211 to be connected with resources.
Hoke County is posting updates and contact information online at www.readyhoke.org.
The city of Raeford is online at www.raefordcity.org.