By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
The Hoke County Health Department is dealing with around 90 known active cases of COVID-19, while more than 200 people who tested positive for the virus have recovered.
As of Tuesday the county had identified a total of 300 known positive cases of COVID-19 since the first known case March 18. Of those known cases, at least 209 were considered recovered, according to information from the local Health Department. The Health Department was dealing with 80 ongoing known, active cases as of last week, and this week added another 11 new cases to the total active tally.
Four people from Hoke County were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to health officials. So far, 14 people in total from Hoke County have been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19.
One person from Hoke County who tested positive for COVID-19 has died, though the person’s death was considered due to complications from an existing medical condition, officials said.
More than 780 people got tested last month for free at a drive-through testing site provided by Harris-Teeter and The Little Clinic, held at Don Steed Elementary. The seven days of testing throughout weekends in May identified 34 known cases of COVID-19.
The local COVID-19 response is going well, and the increase in cases in Hoke County is mainly because testing increased, Hoke County Health Department Director Helene Edwards said in a recent email.
Some of the hospitalizations are coming from a particular situation: “Some asymptomatic cases are becoming having difficulty breathing suffering from hypoxia,” Edwards wrote.
Hypoxia is a medical condition in which a person’s body doesn’t get enough oxygen.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) updated its guidance last week to encourage more people to get tested. Those who may have been exposed but do not have symptoms should get tested. People who work in high-risk settings such as grocery stores or childcare, and anyone who has attended a mass gathering should be tested even if they don’t have symptoms.
Testing is also underway for all nursing home residents and staff across the state, according to officials.
Local healthcare providers, including the Hoke County Health Department, are offering COVID-19 testing. To set up a COVID-19 test through the Health Department, call (910) 875-3717. For more local information, visit the county’s website at readyhoke.org.
County plans •
Hoke County local government installed a $5,000 temperature scan camera at the door of the Hoke County Courthouse, Hoke County Manager Letitia Edens said Monday. The county plans to buy and install more of the cameras at other high-traffic county buildings such as the Department of Social Services, depending on how well the one at the courthouse works.
The camera is set so that security guards can see if anyone with a temperature of 104 or higher enters the building. It makes it easier and safer for staff to use the camera than to have to take each person’s temperature, Edens said.
Additionally, the county is looking into using some COVID-19 funding to build a warehouse that will include room to store personal protective equipment (PPE) stock for the county. Other counties are running into similar issues with purchasing stock of PPE and having nowhere to put it, and the warehouse will solve that problem for Hoke, Edens said. The space would also include offices for Hoke County Emergency Management.
County buildings are also undergoing some work to install “sneeze guards” to separate staff and customers from one another.
Meanwhile, staff members at the Health Department are working with new computer software from NCDHHS to aid in contact tracing, Edwards said.
As summer arrives, local sports fields will continue to stay empty of county-run activities. Hoke County Parks and Recreation Director Sad’a Ray said that summer camps are cancelled, and even the splash pad at the park on Red Springs Road is closed. Parks are open for walking trails only, and children aren’t allowed on the playground equipment.
The county’s community buildings are not being rented out at this time. However, fall sports do have open registration right now, Ray said in an email.
State seeing more cases, hospitalizations •
While numbers in Hoke County remained fairly steady, higher numbers of infections in other parts of the state drew concern from health officials.
Overall North Carolina continues setting new record high numbers for newly identified cases of COVID-19 each day, and new record high numbers for how many people are receiving care in a hospital due to the virus. Nine counties including Alamance, Duplin, Durham, Lee, Johnston, Forsyth and Mecklenburg continued seeing high numbers of new cases.
“We continue to be concerned with our percentage of positive tests and our number of hospitalizations,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a live-streamed press conference Monday.
Right now hospitals in the state do have additional bed capacity to handle the additional cases, but “that could change quickly,” Cooper said.
“We must redouble our work detecting and isolating the virus,” he said.
NCDHHS is sending additional assistance to those counties experiencing “soaring numbers,” the governor said.
Slowly the spread of the virus early on helped the state to build up its supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and expand testing capacity, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Monday.
“We are now drawing on those capabilities,” she said.
It’s important that people get tested to continue to slow the spread. The NCDHHS is contacting healthcare providers to make sure they’re aware of the updated testing guidance.
“We are reaching out to providers and urgent care providers to remind them of the need to test people who don’t have symptoms,” Cohen said.
There are testing resources and supporting available online from the state. Go online to covid19.ncdhhs.gov to access those resources.
Cohen encouraged residents to remember to do the “three Ws” – wear a face covering in public, wash hands frequently and wait at least six feet apart from others in public settings.
“We need to remember we all have the power to keep this virus level low,” she said.