Mon Jul 6, 2020

Columbus’ COVID-19 count nears 300 


The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Columbus County stood at 296 on Monday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Information about the sources of infection for the most recent cases was not available. The Columbus County Health Department announced five new cases on Saturday and said it would provide an update again today (Tuesday).

The county’s death toll blamed on COVID-19 remained at 21, following the most recent death announced on May 19.
Seventy-four people in Columbus County have recovered from COVID-19, the health department said Thursday. An updated number is expected this week.

Cases by zip code

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) releases the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths by zip code, but it has warned that the number may not match data from local health departments. Confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths by zip code on Monday, based on information provided by DHHS:

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28423: (Bolton) 9 cases, 0 deaths
28430: (Cerro Gordo) 13 cases, 0 deaths
28431: (Chadbourn) 55 cases, 4 deaths
28432: (Clarendon) 8 cases, 0 deaths
28436: (Delco) 1 case, 0 deaths
28438: (Evergreen) 5 cases, 0 deaths
28439: (Fair Bluff) 17 cases, 1 death
28442: (Hallsboro) 2 cases, 0 deaths
28450: (Lake Waccamaw) 27 cases, 3 deaths
28455: (Nakina) 4 cases, 1 death
28456: (Riegelwood) 4 cases 0 deaths
28463: (Tabor City) 78 cases, 9 deaths
28472: (Whiteville) 78 cases, 3 deaths

Congregate living cases

DHHS releases the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths at congregate living facilities every Tuesday and Friday. The following is based on Friday’s report:
–Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (Whiteville): 2 staff cases; 0 staff deaths; 12 resident cases; 2 resident deaths.
–Premier Living and Rehab Center (Lake Waccamaw): 8 staff cases, 0 staff deaths; 19 resident cases, 4 resident deaths.
–Tabor Commons Assisted Living (Tabor City): 5 staff cases, 0 staff deaths; 50 resident cases, 9 resident deaths.
North Carolina had 23,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Monday morning, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Statewide, 754 deaths were blamed on COVID-19, and 627 people were hospitalized Monday morning due to the coronavirus. A total of 344,690 tests had been performed across the state.

Update from local leaders

Below are portions of an interview The News Reporter conducted Friday afternoon with Kim Smith, Columbus County public health director, and John Young, CEO of Columbus Regional Healthcare System. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity. The entire video interview is available below.

How much of the increase in cases in Columbus County is due to increased testing?

Kim Smith: I think a lot of it’s due to increased testing because we have a lot of individuals walking around our county with no symptoms. These are the people that I think are the most dangerous because they don’t know that they have it. They have no symptoms.

John Young: We in the county have taken a very aggressive stance in testing. That by its very definition is going to give you more positives. We [CRHS] are doing it. Goshen [Medical Center] is doing it, the health department is doing it. The long-term care facilities, with our help, have tested everybody. It’s a good thing that we know who is positive as best we can.

Where do you fall on whether or not people should be wearing masks?

Kim Smith: I’m in public health, and I think it’s a good thing for everyone to wear a mask. It not only protects you, but it actually protects others more so than you. Because if you’re a carrier [of COVID-19] and you don’t know it, and you have a mask on, then the spray that’s made when you speak stays in that mask. It doesn’t go to the next person.

John, can you give us a current status of how Columbus Regional Healthcare System is responding?

John Young: We continue to be very well prepared at Columbus Regional Healthcare System. The drive-up testing has been very well received. We schedule about every 15 minutes, and we’re booked. I think this is a good thing. Kim and I have often talked about how important it is as we get the availability of tests, to test as many people as we can. Then we track after that so we can try to isolate — instead of the whole community — the people who actually have this virus.
The reason we shut down surgery on the outpatient, elective side was to protect our PPEs [personal protective equipment, like masks] and to make sure we didn’t bring too many people into the hospital because we wanted to make sure we had enough capacity if people needed our critical care units for COVID kinds of symptoms, or if we needed our sixth floor for COVID patients and not for surgery recovery. That’s why we shut it down. It was also part of what the government was saying we should be doing and all hospitals were doing.
Now, as we have spread out this surge — and we have not hit this capacity constraint — we are starting to slowly open [surgery] back up. How you do that is very important. The first thing we did with elective surgery was to allow people to come back that we pushed off four or five weeks ago. The second piece that we’ve allowed to come back just recently are these 24-hour observation patients. Orthopedic surgeries would be an example of that. They don’t stay [in the hospital] long, but it’s not totally an outpatient procedure.
Right now we’re doing a fair number of elective surgeries, but elective surgeries that would not result in an in-patient stay. We are trying to keep our in-patient capacity available if we need it for COVID patients.

Kim, we have talked about contact tracing – how your staff contacts or attempts to contact everyone who has been in close contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19. As we approach 300 cases, that must be increasingly difficult.

Kim Smith: Usually it takes half an hour to an hour [just to interview] the positive individual. Then we ask, “Can you give me the names and phone numbers of the individuals who you have come in contact with?” For the most part, people are very forthcoming with information. We’ve had a few that have not been so forthcoming. That’s when I get on the phone with them. I tell them, ‘I will be glad to go down to the magistrate’s office and take out a warrant and we can do it that way, but it would save a whole lot of time if you would just give me the information.’
Once we explain to them what we’re trying to do and how we go about it, usually they come around. We’ve had one or two that refuse our phone calls, and we’ve sent them certified letters. Sometimes we’ve even sent the isolation order to them and let them read over. Then I’ll give them a call after they’ve gotten it and I’ve given them a day or two to read over it. I tell them, ‘we’ll have an officer outside your home. If that’s what you want to do, we can certainly do that.’ Then they sort of come around.

John, from the Columbus Regional standpoint, what else do people need to know?

John Young: The friction of this moment is really the economic cost of flattening the curve versus the clinical benefit of flattening the curve. Really, there’s not a great answer. The sooner we re-enter, the bigger we’re going to have a surge later on. But on the other hand, if we don’t open up and our economy tanks and nobody has an income, that’s no good either.
I think the most important thing is as we re-enter, if we re-enter cautiously, we can find a good balance between the cost economically and the benefit from a clinically, well thought-through re-entry. And that’s what we’re trying to do at the hospital because when we’re not doing surgeries, we’re not making money, but we’re still spending money. So, it’s been a very tough thing financially for us. But we’re going to be very careful about how we re-enter.


COVID-19 update

The latest on COVID-19 with Kim Smith, Columbus County public health director, and John Young, CEO of Columbus Regional Healthcare System.

Posted by The News Reporter on Friday, May 22, 2020


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