(BREAKING NEWS: North Carolina sets new single-day record for confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 586 additional positive test results since yesterday.)
Dare County is reporting today 18 positive COVID-19 test results, an increase of two over the number it reported yesterday. An Emergency Management Department bulletin explaining the increase has not been issued.
Also new today on the County’s emergency management website is a wide-ranging 13-minute videotaped message from Robert Woodard, Chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, explaining next week’s entry protocol for non-resident property owners and reviewing all of the COVID-19-related actions taken by the County.
See Mr. Woodard’s message at https://www.darenc.com/departments/health-human-services/coronavirus
Mr. Woodard, who is also chairperson of the Dare County Control Group, which has made all of the county’s decisions about restrictions and closures, refers in the videotape to 16 positive COVID-19 test results, not 18, as the website dashboard shows today.
Sheila Davies, director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services, reported Thursday in a videotaped message on the 16th COVID-19 case, which she described as an individual who had been infected by direct contact “outside of the area.”
Dr. Davies said this Dare County resident was recovering in home isolation, and county public-health officials had conducted contact tracing to determine if anyone locally has been infected by him/her. She stressed that the new case was not due to community spread. See The Beacon, 5/1/20.
Mr. Woodard’s lengthy message serves many purposes, including to:
*Review “key steps” taken by Dare County to “keep the community safe” during the COVID-19 crisis (It was a “challenge,” the Board Chairman says, to “balance public-health concerns and economic realities” and make tough decisions, none tougher than the entry ban of non-resident property owners.)
*Welcome non-resident property owners and reiterate the requirements for their access. (See darenc.com/entry for instructions about essential entry paperwork. The primary two owners of a property and their “immediate family” are allowed entry. Immediate family includes a spouse, a parent, a child, a brother, a sister, a grandparent, a grandchild, and any of the preceding relations that are half-, step-, or in-law.)
*Express empathy and support to Dare County residents, who have experienced a “tremendous toll physically, emotionally and economically.” (There is “light at the end of the tunnel,” he promises.)
*Thank the front-line health-care and other essential workers, members of the Control Group, and the public.
*Ask Dare County residents to “welcome visitors,” and to “act with compassion and kindness” and “foster a warm and welcoming environment.”
Mr. Woodard, a Republican who faces opposition for his Board seat in November, singles out March 25 as “a day I will always remember.” It was on March 25 that Dare County received the first confirmation of a positive COVID-19 test.
He also stresses that all Control Group decisions were based on the “best available science” and says the County is currently in a state of readiness to receive a greater population, but it is not yet ready to make a decision on when visitors may return.
He credits the Dare community’s practice of social restrictions for decreasing the risk of spreading the new coronavirus locally and says that the turn-around time on obtaining COVID-19 test results has “dramatically improved.”
In speaking to non-resident property owners, Mr. Woodard asks that they bring enough essential supplies to last through their visits, specifically mentioning “groceries, prescriptions, paper products, and other essentials.”
BASICS OF GROCERY-STORE SHOPPING
In his review of social restrictions in place in North Carolina, Mr. Woodard emphasizes those directed to social distancing in essential retail businesses, particularly grocery stores.
There will be “greater wait times to enter the stores,” the Dare County Board Chairman predicts, with the population influx next week, and reminds people of the store occupancy restrictions in effect.
Although Mr. Woodard alludes to the Emergency Maximum Occupancy in retail businesses established by the Governor’s Executive Order 131, he does not detail the order’s specifics. For the benefit of new arrivals, we reiterate the restrictions below:
Executive Order 131 limits maximum occupancy in stores to:
*Twenty percent of the state fire capacity; OR
*Five customers for every 1,000 square feet of the “retail location’s total square footage, including non-customer-facing portions.”
The order also requires retailers to observe minimum social/physical distancing by clearly marking six feet of spacing “in lines at cash registers” and “in other high-traffic areas for customers, such as at deli counters and near high-volume products,” inside their stores.
If a retailer reaches or expects to reach its Emergency Maximum Occupancy at any time, it must “clearly mark six feet of spacing in a designated line outside the establishment.”
Further, all operating retail establishments must “perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas” with a disinfectant approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for SARS-CoV-2.
Executive Order 131 also encourages retailers to take voluntary steps, including:
*to place hand sanitizer prominently at entry and exit points and to have disinfecting EPA-approved wipes and/or sprays available for shopping carts and baskets;
*to post signage that reminds customers and employees about required six-foot physical distancing; and
*to designate exclusive shopping times for “seniors and other at-risk groups as defined by the CDC.”
You will find that all area grocery stores have initiated restrictions, including one-way aisles. For information about ordering online, delivery and pickup, restricted hours for people age 65 and over, and more, see the excellent chart at: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=6412
The Beacon looks upon the next two to three weeks as a trial run to see how well we manage social restrictions with a larger and denser population.
If in three weeks, local COVID-19 cases have surged, that light at the end of the tunnel will dim.
DARE’S SCHOOL YEAR OFFICIALLY ENDS MAY 22
The current Dare County school year will end officially on May 22, according to an announcement released yesterday by Superintendent John Farrelly.
The release includes a request that students return all technological devices during the week of May 26-29, when they also will be able to retrieve any belongings they may have left at school, according to local media reports.
The school system reportedly will be surveying parents this month about their interest in a summer remote learning program for their children.
For more information about grading, graduation, scholarship awards, and other matters related to the current school, as well as details concerning the summer and the next school year, see:
AND FINALLY . . . CLEANING NEWS FROM SOUTHERN SHORES REALTY
I previously shared information with The Beacon audience that I had received from Southern Shores Realty (SSR) because I am an SSR rental property owner. Yesterday, I received an owner letter/email from SSR owner Mike Stone whose content I also would like to share with you.
I believe Dare County residents should know what rental property companies are planning to do to protect renters from transmission of the coronavirus because their actions affect everyone in the community. Rental companies generally act in concert.
Mr. Stone’s email announces that SSR will be implementing a “Peace of Mind” cleaning checklist for each vacation home, in addition to the company’s regular cleaning protocol. SSR is asking each owner to do the following for the 2020 rental season:
- Remove all owner-purchased decorative bedspreads/comforters/coverlets.
- Remove all blankets.
- Remove all decorative pillows from couches, etc.
- Remove any extra pillows with shams.
- Ensure that each mattress has two clean mattress pads.
- Ensure that all pillows are clean and new.
The rental company will be placing bedspreads and other bed covers in each home for the guests to use during each paid occupancy. Each cover will be laundered by a commercial laundry service weekly and replaced.
Any linens provided by vacation home owners for guests will remain in wrapped packages as they come from the cleaning facility. SSR’s housekeepers will not be making beds.
As I receive more notices from SSR about changes in the way it is doing business, I will let Beacon readers know.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/2/20