As the United States moves into its third month of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, North Carolina and Alamance County is looking to partially reopen later this week.
If everything stays according to plan - and Governor Roy Cooper and his officials continue to receive positive data as it relates to new COVID-19 cases and deaths - the state is expected to enter Phase 2 of its reopening stages on Friday.
Phase 2 will effectively end the “Stay at Home” order that has been in place statewide for the past several weeks. But people are still recommended to follow social distancing, staying at least six feet apart from strangers for the foreseeable future as public life begins to re-emerge.
Churches and entertainment venues such as movie theatres and bowling alleys can reopen at partial capacity, and public playgrounds will reopen for children. Bars, gyms, and salons will also return with social distancing guidelines in place, along with capacity restrictions. Phase 2 will also allow the limited opening of restaurants, which Mebane proprietors are quickly making preparations for in advance of Friday.
However, nursing homes and other at-risk populations will continue to be very closely monitored by local health officials for any potential outbreaks. Individuals considered especially vulnerable to the illness - such as elderly people and folks with a history of respiratory and ear/nose/throat conditions - are strongly advised to continue staying at home and practicing social distancing.
As of the Enterprise’s weekly press deadline, there had been a grand total of 19,023 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 across North Carolina, with 661 deaths and 511 currently hospitalized with the illness. Approximately 255,000 across the state have been tested. In Alamance County, there had been a combined total of 215 confirmed cases and 11 deaths.
While not all residents are instructed to get tested for COVID-19, those that are advised to get tested include residents who are known to have come into close personal contact with someone who has tested positive, as well as those who are exhibiting symptoms of the flu.
People over the age of 65 or with underlying health issues, as well as folks in underserved and high-risk communities such as adult home care facilities are also advised to get tested, along with essential workers such as nurses and other medical professionals who have been in contact with positive cases.
According to Alamance County Health Director Stacie Saunders, who made a presentation before the Alamance County Commissioners last week, Cone Health limited COVID-19 tests to people who were hospitalized. Alamance County has been fortunate to take advantage of its close proximity to numerous high-quality medical facilities, and has had several providers collecting tests, reaching over 1,000 countywide earlier this month.
“We’re in a unique situation in Alamance County, with large hospital systems to the west and west of us,” Saunders explained to the Commissioners, adding that various residents have gotten tests at UNC and Duke as well as Alamance Regional Medical Center.
“We’re working with our partners to increase that collection access even more,” Saunders added. “You want to make sure your first responders have knowledge ahead of time, so they do not expose themselves.”
Saunders added that significant efforts are being made to protect the privacy of those who have tested positive, with only dispatch personnel and those first responders working directly with patients being made aware of who has the COVID-19 virus.