County declares state of emergency, sees second positive case of coronavirus

Published 1:59 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County officials on Friday declared a state of emergency, joining dozens of counties across the state, and announced a second person in the county has tested positive for COVID-19.

A state of emergency allows resources and funding from both the state and federal level to be streamlined to the county if needed. County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said it’s a technical action to ensure the county is complying with both state and federal recommendations, and that it’s not cause for panic.

“This isn’t to punish anyone,” said Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten during a press conference on Friday. “It’s to protect them.”

A state of emergency would also allow the board of commissioners to bypass regular requirements involving the safety and health of citizens if needed.

Commissioner Vice Chairman Jim Greene during a news conference also announced a second patient in the county has tested positive for the coronavirus. Chris Soliz, county emergency services chief, said that the next step will be to investigate and trace back others who may have come in contact with the infected individual. No further information was provided about the person who tested positive.

As of Friday, the total number of positive cases in the state was 137 with no deaths. The U.S. count is up to more than 15,000 confirmed cases with a death toll of more than 200.

Additionally, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center president Gary Blabon announced the hospital will implement a free-standing drive-thru screening center, located at 315 Mocksville Ave., on Tuesday. The hospital placed a hard shelter outside of its entrance on Thursday to screen people before they enter the hospital.

Blabon also explained the process that takes place for testing individuals who may display coronavirus symptoms, which includes fever, sore throat, dry cough and troubled breathing. If an individual tests negative for the flu, a swab is used to test for COVID-19, which causes the coronavirus, and then that sample is vetted by Novant Health before being sent to the county health department. The patient is either admitted to the hospital or sent home to self-quarantine until the results are in.

For any questions regarding the coronavirus, individuals are encouraged to call their health care provider, the health department hotline at 980-432-1800 or the Novant hotline at 877-9-NOVANT.

Friday’s news conference included leaders of organizations across the community — from the Salisbury VA to tourism officials.

Director of the Salisbury VA Joseph Vaughn said that starting Monday no visitation will be allowed except for those assisting veterans with getting to their appointments.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said food was delivered to 11,000 children across the county Thursday, which includes not only K-12 students, but also preschool-aged children and children not yet enrolled in school. She added that there would an announcement by Saturday regarding additional changes to improve the delivery services.

Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins said the student who was the first person to test positive for COVID-19 in the county is doing well and self-isolating at home. Jenkins said the college will be closed Monday until April 14.

James Meacham, director of the county tourism development authority, said thousands of jobs have already been lost in the service, tourism and lodging sector, which mirrors what is happening across the nation. He said the tourism development authority is working to put together a relief package for the tourism sector.

Rod Crider, president and CEO of the county economic development commission, said there have been no large layoffs among major employers yet and that they anticipate only a temporary impact. Some companies, including Chewy and Snow Joe, are currently hiring.

Encouraging hope to businesses during this time, Edds said, “The recovery after this will be sure and swift.”

Edds also said the county was on numerous conference calls Thursday, one of which included the 10 mayors in the county. Municipalities have the freedom to declare their own state of emergency, but they all concurred with the county’s declaration, he said. The City of Salisbury issued a declaration signed by Mayor Karen Alexander, too, on Friday.

Edds said the county is in place and good standing during this time as it is continuously coordinating with emergency management services, the various health care providers and departments and other agencies.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.