Health department COVID-19 update county commissioners

Progress is being made in the fight against COVID-19, according to Moore County Health Director Robert Whittmann in a far-reaching, detailed presentation made to the Moore County Board of Commissioners in a public meeting Tuesday. The meeting was conducted online keeping with social distancing measures.

“We are doing rather well when you look at the comparisons,” between Moore County and other counties. Whittmann cited data on the county’s COVID-19 dashboard showing the number of cases, deaths and cases per 10,000 for each county across North Carolina. Of the surrounding counties, only Cumberland County has reported fewer cases per capita than Moore County.

The comments come as a response to a detailed letter sent by the Moore County Commissioners to the Chairman of the Board of Health, Dr. Bill Mang. In the letter, commissioners asked for responses to 14 questions requesting information, explanations and updates on what is being done to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Reported cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Moore County. Data provided by the Moore County COVID-19 Dashboard.

Despite cases in Moore County continuing to rise, Whittmann pointed to the relatively low number of people that have died in the county as a result of COVID-19. “Our efforts have been, and continue to be, to keep the number of COVID-19 deaths of Moore County residents as low as possible,” said Whittmann. Of the 11 deaths attributed to COVID-19, “only one death has been attributed to an individual who was under age 65 (this individual was 62). All other deaths were of individuals age 73 and above.” 

Since Whittmann spoke, the number of Moore County residents that have died due to COVD-19 rose to 12, according to the county’s online dashboard. In a press release, the Moore County Health Department disclosed that the person had been living in a residential care facility. 

The county maintains the dashboard website that provides at-a-glance views used to track information such as confirmed cases, average confirmed cases in the last 10 days, recovered cases in North Carolina, cases by zip code and cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The link to the dashboard can be found on the Moore County Health Department’s website, https://www.moorecountync.gov/health. The information is updated daily.

The most vulnerable population in Moore County continue to be those living in nursing homes and assisted living communities. Those residents are considered to be at high risk for infection, serious illness and death. 

For that reason, county commissioners heard that the health department has offered free test kits, processing and consultation to encourage all Moore County’s long-term care facilities to participate in testing for their residents and staff. “Some facilities have consulted with the health department but have not opted to move forward with testing at this time,” said Whittmann.

In recent days, St. Joseph of the Pines underwent testing. All the results came back negative. Residents and staff at Magnolia Gardens are scheduled to be tested soon, and Fox Hollow has done independent testing at their facility, according to Whittmann.  

Nursing homes and assisted living communities are considered congregate living settings by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. According to one count, a total of 19 such facilities are located in Moore County. Two facilities listed by the state are considered to have an outbreak of COVID-19, Pinehurst Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center and Fox Hollow Senior Living Community.

An outbreak is defined by the state as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases and triggers mandatory testing at the facility. With only one positive case, the facility is not required to do testing of residents and staff, under current state guidelines.

In a response to a question by the county commissioners asking about plans should there be a resurgence of coronavirus, Whittmann discussed a plan developed by county officials, the Moore County Community Intervention Implementation Plan. “In the event of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the fall/winter, the existing plan will be utilized, however, it will be altered in light of updated information and guidance,” said Whittmann. “This plan will be updated as needed as we go through the summer and enter in the fall and winter as new information becomes available.” 

Commissioners also heard that up to 10,000 migrant farm workers are expected to come to Moore County to help harvest fruits, vegetables and tobacco. They are part of the North Carolina Grower’s Association program to supply legal, guest workers. These seasonal workers are monitored for symptoms of the coronavirus at a Texas border crossing and then again when they arrive in Moore County, according to the Health Department.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Article and feature photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

 

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