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'It's absolute hunker-down time' as Covid peak nears

Advent Health CEO Jimm Bunch answers questions at a Covid-19 information session at the Historic Courthouse. Advent Health CEO Jimm Bunch answers questions at a Covid-19 information session at the Historic Courthouse.

Henderson County commissioners, emergency management and public health leaders and county administrators answered Covid-19 questions in a live stream on Tuesday. Here’s the Q&A. Commissioners Rebecca McCall and Bill Lapsley, County Manager Steve Wyatt, Public Health Director Steve Smith, Emergency Services Director Jimmy Brissie and Advent Health CEO Jimm Bunch answered questions the public had emailed in. Here’s the Q&A:


Are there enough tests?

“We have drive-thru available for patients who physicians believe may have the virus, it’s so much safer to do it outside the walls of the hospital,” Bunch said. The person has to be symptomatic. ... We are sometimes paying 10 times what we did before (for personal protective equipment) but because we don’t know how long this will go on, we’re paying it. We’re also doing what we can to work with them to give them supplies and other things because the best thing is for people never to get to the hospital. Hospitals can be a very dangerous place.”

How are health care workers staying safe?

“At Advent Health, every associate is required to wear a mask,” Bunch said. “That wasn’t always true in the past … This is a learn-as-you-go type thing but we’re getting better and better across the county but also inside the walls.”

It seems like a lot of citizens are not adhering to the stay-home order, flocking to big-box stores.

“We certainly have heard concerns” from the public, Smith said. He surveyed retail stores on Saturday and found good to poor control of the number of customers.

Why are golf courses designated as essential?

The governor has exempted them, as well as parks. The county ordinance mirrors Gov. Cooper’s order.

A family member wants to take an elderly relative out of Cherry Springs Village.

The county can’t make that call, Smith said. If the resident goes to another facility, he or she should be quarantined for 14 days.

Any hot spots identified outside of Cherry Springs?

No. It’s a “hodge podge” of locations and circumstances.

How many cases are pending?

The backlog has been cleared up. Turnaround time is “dramatically improved.” Generally, there are 20-30 tests pending.

What was date of last positive result?


Distancing has worked.

“The distancing that this community has done bought health care providers the time we need to get the testing kits in. A big shoutout to this community because that’s what allows us the time to be as prepared as we are today.”

Some people are frustrated that they cannot get a Covid test.

Some physicians have told patients that they don’t qualify for a test. “Let your doctor guide you through these coming weeks,” Wyatt said. Providers are prioritizing decisions “for doing the most good for the most people.”

When will county enforce the rules that bar people from going out for non-essentials?

“I think the way I read the governor’s proclamation, what goes on inside the big box stores is the responsibility of the management of the big box stores,” Lapsley said. “We don’t have enough sheriff’s deputies or city police officers to go into big box stores and enforce the intent of the proclamation. We’ve asked the public to use common sense and follow the guidance that we’ve been given.” The success of the prevention effort is up to individuals, Wyatt added.

How many Covid patients are currently hospitalized?

None. “The vast majority of them (outside assisted living centers) are at a personal home and they’re isolated and the family’s taking care of them,” Lapsley said. The county 911 center knows the address of each Covid patient so dispatchers can warn EMS responding to a call at that home.

Are there enough testing kits?

“I would say there are enough for our current model, which is prioritizing people at highest risk,” Smith said.

So if a medical professional refers you for a test there is a test available?


Why is everything is shut down if most people won’t be sick?

EMS director Jimmy Brissie: “By and large, the things we are doing as a society are ensuring that this curve stays flat.”

Wyatt: “South Carolina (with no stay-home order) has about a third of the population and last I looked had more confirmed cases and also more fatalities (than North Carolina). Throughout history over hundreds of years this has been a fundamental and very effective strategy in dealing with communicable disease.”


Brissie: If you are mildly ill, call your primary care doctor. If you call 911, expect extra questions to guard against spread. EMS had seen some increase in calls about Covid symptoms but those have leveled off. The United Way operates a 211 help line for questions that are not an emergency, such as food pantries, help with a power bill or other crisis intervention. The county is working with manufacturers to see if they can make items for “anticipated surge needs.”

Smith: “I also want to commend the community for the sacrifice they’re making navigating this extraordinary period of time. People are by and large complying with the stay-at-home order. I absolutely do believe that the next few weeks are critical. Don’t have anyone at the house. Don’t go visit anyone. Don’t leave the house for anything but work, groceries, medication and to get exercise. If you’re doing any more than that you are putting lives at risk. It is absolute hunker-down time.”

Lapsley: “Commissioners want to make sure that county government is transparent with all our citizens and that everybody knows what’s going on, that the statistics and information commissioners are aware of get out in the community. The people have a right to know.”