As of Tuesday, there is one presumptive positive case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Lincoln County and seven others have been tested and are considered persons under investigation (PUI), according to a press release issued by Ronnie Rombs, Lincoln county senior systems analyst/public information officer. A PUI is a person who was tested based on COVID-19 testing criteria and is self-isolating until test results are received. County and city officials and organizations are working together to keep citizens and residents informed and updated. Lincoln County is still considered a low risk community at this time.
Lincoln County is prepared and ready to respond should COVID-19 illness be confirmed in the community, according to the press release. The Lincoln County Health Department wants to remind residents to stay home if sick and call ahead to your medical provider if you have flu-like symptoms. Only consider the emergency department in a true emergency to reduce the burden during the COVID-19 pandemic. Current information and recommendations to health department website at lincolncounty.org and will provide future updates and instructions as they become available.
On Monday, a state of emergency was declared in Lincoln County in light of the pandemic. The declaration indicated that the county commissioners are encouraging events or other mass gatherings expecting more than 50 participants to be cancelled or postponed. They also suspended all Lincoln County Senior Services activities until further notice and suspended all recreational events and/or activities that include “high risk” groups in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Commissioners also postponed the grand opening of the Lincoln County Library – Western Branch with an alternative date to be determined.
At the regular meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners held Monday evening, chairman of the board, Carrol Mitchem said that they were doing everything that they possibly good to take care of the citizens of Lincoln County.
“We went through some things that we thought we needed to do to prepare for this,” Mitchem said. “We thought we had things somewhat in good order. Then things snowballed and it got to moving faster. We’re trying to get ahead of the curve. It’s a moving target.”
The new director for Lincoln County Health Department, Davin Madden, provided the commissioners with an update on the county’s efforts to protect residents against COVID-19.
“There’s a lot more questions than there are answers,” he said. “We recognize that this event has been hyped up a lot in the media. There’s a lot of social momentum behind it. It’s a serious issue, but it’s something that we can control. We recognize the impact it’s had on the health and economics of our community and across the state.”
The decision by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper to close all schools was a quick change that the county had to deal with over the weekend, Madden said.
“When you close schools, some of these children have parents that are nurses, 911 workers and EMS workers,” he said. “These workers don’t necessarily have the means to quit their jobs and take care of their children. They have to, they have no choice as parents. We’re looking at work policies that the county needs to consider so we can continue to provide services.”
Social distancing is critical, Madden said, as is aggressive hygiene and requiring that people stay home if they’re sick to help flatten the curve.
“We’re ready to respond,” he said. “We’ve evaluated our plan – is it perfect? No. Do we have all the answers? No. Even the most educated experts don’t have every answer. I think we’re in a good place. We’re alert but not alarmed or panicking.”
Lincoln County Schools
The Lincoln County Board of Education met at 8 a.m. Monday morning to discuss school closures. At the meeting, the board voted to require the period of March 17 through March 30 be mandatory workdays for all staff, certified and classified.
“We need our people here working whether it’s taking care of the buildings, preparing instructional work packets or planning for further instruction and feeding our children as we maneuver through this closure,” Lincoln County Schools superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow said. “The governor stated that everyone will get paid but I feel very strongly we need our people here at work to help us navigate through this unchartered territory.”
It was decided at the board meeting that LCS employees who had children would be able to take their children to work with them.
“We don’t want them congregating in the cafeteria, the media center or other places in the school,” Morrow said. “They can go outside but schools are closed for children for the mass gathering and the propensity of spreading of the virus, but also knowing that a lot of our staff do have children and childcare centers are closing. Part of working through all of this over the next few weeks is we’re going to have to instruct our employees to be very mindful of the whole social distancing and not congregating in masses.”
The board revised the school calendar which is available on the Lincoln County School’s web site. A press release sent by the district said that principals will work with staff on a case by case basis for employees that may need special provisions due to being susceptible to illness. Employees will have the option to take annual leave days, with administrative approval, or sick leave, if the employee cannot work during this time.
These workdays will be used to appropriately plan for instruction and operations through March 30 and beyond if that becomes necessary. The instructional assignments that will be sent home over the next two weeks are intended for skill maintenance, according to the press release. Each grade span will have expectations defined by the appropriate director of instructional services.
All student field trips as well as school and district activities have been canceled through April 19.
Report cards will not go out on March 30, according to the press release. A new date will be determined once students return to school. All facility use agreements have been canceled until April 19. This includes the use of all school athletic fields and practice areas.
Lincoln County Schools have implemented free to go meals to be available beginning Wednesday, March 18. These to go meals are available to any child 18 years and younger, at no charge. The meals are also available to LCS enrolled EC students over the age of 18.
All sites are drive-through only. Families are asked to stay in their cars and may pull up to the designated area. The drive-through area will be located at the bus entrance of each school.
Parents may go to any school offering the meals and do not have to go to the school that their child attends.
Each day the parent will receive both a lunch for that day and a breakfast for the following morning. Students do not have to be present. Parents/guardians may pick up meals to take to students and younger siblings at home.
Free feeding sites will operate Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- Battleground Elementary
- Childers Elementary
- East Lincoln High School
- Iron Station Elementary
- North Brook Elementary
- Pumpkin Center Intermediate
- S. Ray Lowder Elementary
- West Lincoln Middle
The child nutrition office cautions that in order to maintain food safety, lunches should be consumed or discarded by 3:00 p.m. Milk should be kept refrigerated until consumed.
Please call the Child Nutrition Office at (704) 736-4301 with questions.
Lincoln Charter School
“We’ve started a page on our web site for communication with parents,” Lincoln Charter Schools chief administrator Jonathan Bryant said. “Obviously this has been a rapidly evolving and changing situation. As we get information, interpret it and distill it down, we’re trying to keep our staff, our parents and students well informed. Essentially, we’re taking Monday through Wednesday as teacher workdays in preparation for e-learning. We’re very fortunate to have done a lot of work in the past years with our infrastructure to set up the systems that we’re going to be leaning on.”
For grades six through 12, Lincoln Charter School teachers have been using a number of online tools and learning management systems on an ongoing basis, Bryant added. This will make the transition smoother than it would have been otherwise.
“The younger kids have some online learning activities and assignments that we’re working on,” he said. “At this point, we don’t have our full plan in place and set. We’ll have that done by Wednesday. Those kids will be doing less technology-intensive activities and assignments.”
Some of the lessons will be delivered electronically, but some teachers are opting to run off packets.
“We’re trying to keep our non-salaried folks engaged,” Bryant said. “We want to take care of our community, so those people are going to help with various things like delivering food to families in need. We’re using it as an opportunity to take care of everybody. We’re not trying to load our kids up with work and seeing how much we can accomplish and how busy we can make them. Obviously, there’s a lot of questions about how a temporary or a prolonged cancellation of school is going to impact things like testing. There’re more questions than answers. We’re trying to take it one day at a time. We don’t want to cause more stress than everybody has already – we’re just trying to keep the momentum of learning going.”
The counselors at Lincoln Charter have reached out to families to offer support to those that may need it.
Bryant paraphrased a quote from Mr. Roger’s mother, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
“That’s a great description of our community right now,” he said. “Everybody is tackling the challenge together, trying to rally and continue to do the best thing for kids.”
United Way of Lincoln County
Kathy Vinzant, United Way of Lincoln County executive director is mobilizing a food collection for Lincoln County School families. The Central Office at 201 Jeb Seagal Drive will be a drop off site for anyone wishing to donate non-perishable food. There will be carts outside on the sidewalk for individuals to leave any donations in the carts. This will limit the number of people in contact with others. Suggested items to collect include bread, canned fruit, soup, spaghetti sauce, boxed spaghetti, tuna fish, meat sticks, Ramon noodles, mac and cheese, canned ravioli, peanut butter crackers, cheese crackers, canned chili, canned vegetables, canned ham, beans, canned stew, nut butters, jelly, dried fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, rice, granola and protein bars, non-dairy milk, rice and soy milk on shelf, baby wipes, toilet paper and paper towels.
Christian Ministry of Lincoln County
The soup kitchen at Christian Ministry of Lincoln County is breaking up sessions to keep groups eating lunch smaller, according to Christian Ministry executive director Mitzi Williams. They will start serving at 11 a.m.
“We’re trying to do our part and distance people,” she said. “We’ll clean the kitchen and then let the next group come in. I don’t think it’ll be more than three turnovers in a big day. I think that’ll work as far as the soup kitchen goes.”
The soup kitchen is operating on as few volunteers as they can manage.
The ministry is not letting clients on the dock, giving them their buggy at the door. They still have to interview people, but they’ve rearranged their offices to offer more social distancing.
“LINC meals is one of the safest, if you want to call it, volunteer jobs that we have as far as being around people,” Williams said. “It’s just one person in your own car. You go and hand out boxes that have come out of a sterile kitchen to people who are homebound.”
The stores at Christian Ministry are good right now, Williams said. They try to stay a month or a month and a half ahead.
“If parents come needing extra food, we’re going to give it to them,” she said. “It’s the same scenario that we deal with at Christmas. They’ve got kids at home for two solid weeks. That’s why we do the wheelbarrow full of food for these families so they will have that food at home for the children. We’re dealing with it case by case.”
The clothing room is closed, and they can’t take in donations for the next two weeks at which point it’ll be re-evaluated. Showers, laundry, furniture, and household items are also not available at this time.
“We’ll continue to monitor what government protocols are put in place and work within them,” she said. “Any donation of food or financial help is welcome. It would help if the community would back us like they do at Christmas.
Restaurants and Bars
Gov. Roy Cooper announced another executive order on Tuesday to order restaurants and bars closed except for takeout and delivery orders. As of the date of his press conference, there were 40 reported cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.
“We know this will change,” he said. “It’s likely that we already have community spread which is likely to show up in the testing. We know that more people will get sick and lives are in danger.”
In a “reasonable but strong action” to lessen the spread of coronavirus and to save lives, Cooper ordered that restaurants and bars be closed to sit-down service and to only take-out and delivery orders starting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Cooper recognized that this will be a hardship.
Grocery stores will remain open. Cooper urged people not to stockpile and to leave some for others, especially those who can’t afford to buy all at once.