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Stanly prepares for coronavirus

Stanly County organizations are preparing for the novel coronavirus that has infected people around the world.

COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China and spread quickly across the country. Cases have now been reported in Italy, Iran, the United States and other countries. As of Monday morning, there were confirmed cases in 12 states, with two fatalities. No confirmed cases have been announced in North
Carolina.

Dr. Jeff James, superintendent of Stanly County Schools, said his staff is working on preparations.

“We have begun conversations about this and we have a pandemic plan,” James said via email Feb. 26.

James said students will have the ability to do classwork at home.

“As for instruction, K-5, given enough time, two to four weeks, can certainly send home materials that would be covered in school,” James said. “Parents can then work with their kids completing this. Teachers certainly could be available for those having internet access or by phone to help. Grades 6-8 have devices and according to our data, approximately 85-89 percent of homes have access to the internet. We do have the ability to download to these devices what would have been covered in class.”

James said the schools could “comfortably” prepare six to eight weeks of classwork, if they had “a few weeks’ notice.”

Beverly Pennington, director of student services and county athletic director, said via email that she and the lead school nurse planned to meet with the Stanly County Health Department last Friday.

An update was not available by press deadline.

Melanie Holles, director of the Stanly County Public Library, said the library branches will not make any changes yet, but are ready to if necessary.

“At this point, we’re making sure all hand sanitizer units are functioning and full,” Holles said. “And we’ve got some Legos and stuff that the kids play with. That sort of stuff we’re not going to take out (of the rooms) until there’s confirmed cases in the state. We’ve talked about that. But as far as canceling
programs, we haven’t had any discussions.”

Holles said the library is ready to adapt.

“We’re following whatever the health department says to do,” Holles added. “We’re watching the situation, of course, but trying not to panic.”

David Jenkins, director of health and human services at the Stanly County Health Department, said his office is monitoring the situation and receives regular communications from the state.

“We get emails to push out to local providers,” Jenkins said. “Part of our responsibility is to get information from the state out to local providers so they have the information, as well.”

The health department added a link on its homepage that will lead users to information on the coronavirus published by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Jenkins said residents should stay home when sick, keep areas clean and practice good hygiene.

“The same thing you’d do with just the flu,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said his department is handling it similarly to ebola, making sure that information is publicly available.

“At this time we’re just kind of generally planning based on state guidelines and recommendations,” Jenkins said.

He recommended that individuals have basic supplies available.

If there were potential cases, nothing could be released without state approval.

“We’re not allowed to share information unless there’s permission from the state level, especially in a small community, because it wouldn’t be hard to figure out who has it,” Jenkins said.

No cases have been confirmed in North Carolina, according to the state.

A representative for Albemarle First Assembly said she was unaware of any coronavirus preparations for the church, but said the administrator may have more information. The individual was not available by press deadline.

A representative for First Baptist Church in Albemarle also said she was not aware of any preparations.

State, federal planning

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services sent out a press release Feb. 26 saying that Gov. Roy Cooper’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Task Force is busily readying the state.

The release encouraged “businesses, schools, health care providers, communities and individuals to prepare as well.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also encouraged individuals to brace for the virus. Recommendations include to “create a household plan of action,” including gathering emergency contact numbers and considering how to help those who may have complications. The CDC also
recommends looking ahead for resources “that provide mental health or counseling services, food and other supplies.”

The CDC recommends practicing good hygiene and designating a sick room, preparing to have children home if schools close, and checking in with employers about their plans.

No answers regarding preparations were available from Atrium Health-Stanly, Pfeiffer University or Stanly Community College by press deadline.

Individuals with questions about the coronavirus may call the North Carolina Division of Public Health’s coronavirus call line at 1-866-462-3821. Those with emergencies should call 911. To learn more, visit ncdhhs.gov.

The Stanly News and Press will continue to monitor local preparations and guidelines.

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.