In a break from their regular meeting schedule, the Moore County Board of Health conducted a special session Monday to address a perceived lack of action, failure of transparency and reporting inconsistencies in the county’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The meeting was held online in keeping with the declared statewide stay-at-home order.
After weeks of pressure from social media, calls for the ouster of the health director and questions raised by county commissioners, the Board of Health scheduled the meeting as a way to keep the public informed.
Speaking to the recent reporting of a single case of COVID-19 at the Brookdale Senior Living facility in Pinehurst, Robert Wittmann, Health Director, explained that only after a facility has two or more confirmed tests can the Health Department require testing of all residents and staff. Brookdale, and all nursing homes in Moore County, are continuing to monitor their residents and staff. Testing is done only after they show symptoms.
According to Wittmann, testing has been offered to every nursing home in Moore County for all residents and staff. The Health Department expects to hear this week if the facilities will allow testing for the virus to be conducted. The authority to require tests regardless of the number of positive cases is now being looked into by the Health Director.
The open meeting of the Board of Health came after a closed session “to consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee,” according to the public notice. In a statement by William Mang, Board of Health Chair, “there is nothing to report,” leaving the public to assume that no action was taken in closed session.
The news of a confirmed case of COVID-19 at Brookdale comes as news of three employees at the Fresh Market in Southern Pines and a Moore County Sheriff Deputy tested positive was made public, bringing the total confirmed cases in Moore County to 116 and 6 deaths.
Under pressure from media groups, state health authorities released a list yesterday of current nursing homes and residential care facilities across the state with two or more COVID-19 cases. Pinehurst Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center is reported to have 65 laboratory-confirmed cases and three deaths.
During the meeting, Wittmann also addressed inconsistencies between the county’s dashboard and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website.
Both Moore County’s online dashboard and the DHHS website shows the number of confirmed cases, a timeline of cases and the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Moore County.
The differences stem from where the information is collected. The Moore County Health Department gets its information directly from testing providers. It is updated daily as positive cases are reported to the Health Department.
The DHHS received notification from the state laboratory, commercial laboratories, as well as local health departments. Further complicating accurate reporting, not all private labs have the ability to report their results to the state. “Our dashboard is more up-to-date than the state dashboard,” Wittmann said.
County Commissioner Louis Gregory, who also serves on the Board of Health, urged the Health Department to continue to work with the media to keep the public informed. “We need to make sure we continue our relationship with the media in such a way that they are there for us and that needs to continue,” Commissioner Gregory said.
~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.