Bertie implements COVID action plan

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2022

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WINDSOR – Last week’s sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases has prompted Bertie County local government officials to take action.

Effective Monday (Jan. 10), all county office buildings will be open by appointment only during normal business hours. Bertie County Manager Juan Vaughan II said the action was necessary to reduce the foot traffic within those buildings in an effort to protect the health of the general public and county employees.

Vaughan updated the county’s board of commissioners about the issue during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night. He mentioned that the county had used a “by appointment only” scenario during previous spikes in COVID-19 infections locally.

“Due to the state of COVID in the county, rising from 80 to 155 cases, we’re beginning to feel the effects of that in our departments,” Vaughan told the commissioners on Monday night. “We have employees at home in isolation due to confirmed cases of COVD-19. Because of that we have implemented a number of things, to include having our facilities/offices open to the public by appointment only.

“No needs will go unmet,” Vaughan continued. “We encourage our citizens to use the drop boxes [to make payments] or call us in advance if they absolutely need to see someone in our departments. We can accommodate that if they will call in advance and make an appointment. That way we can minimize the amount of [foot] traffic in our departments.”

Vaughan added that commissioner meetings will be face-to-face with the board members, pertinent staff, and presenters while the public can take part virtually via ZOOM.

“Additionally, we have recommended that all Council on Aging activities as well as sports programs with Parks and Recreation are on hold until further notice,” Vaughan said. “We’re beginning to again transition our employees, who are capable, to work from home. There may be some of that remote work to minimize the amount of activity within our buildings.”

Vaughan noted there is a matter needing clarification regarding a recent directive from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).

“The CDC recently stated that the quarantine/isolation period [for COVID-19 patients] has gone from ten days to five days,” Vaughan observed. “I think it’s important that we say we require a minimum of five days [quarantine/isolation] if an employee is diagnosed with COVID. It is possible for some people to return [to work] after five days. However, we know that some of the [COVID] symptoms linger longer. So it’s important that we treat those on a case-by-case basis and not just say across the board that it’s okay to return to work after five days.”

“Can employees be [COVID] tested [after five days],” asked Commission Chairman John Trent.

“We looked into that and the CDC advised against having employees to have a [COVID] test before they came back to work,” Vaughan replied. “You can test positive for a long time after you are beyond the point of being contagious.”

“There’s a lot of controversy right now about the CDC switching to five days,” stated Commissioner Ron Wesson. “There’s a significant percentage of people who still are positive, who can still transmit the virus after five days. Somehow the CDC is accepting that as a part of doing business. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense. If a person gets tested to find out if they are positive, then wouldn’t they want to get tested to find out that they aren’t positive?”

“That’s my thought process exactly,” stressed Trent.

Cortney Ward, Bertie County’s Human Resources / Risk Management Director, said she was under the impression that the CDC was opposed to the post-testing based on their findings that some COVID patients may test positive for up to three months after their initial test.

“That would really put our employees in tough situations….out of work for weeks, months if we implemented that requirement,” Ward said.

“We would be able to handle those extreme cases by exception,” Wesson suggested.

Trent advised Vaughan to further study the five-day/ten-day issue and present his findings to the board at their next meeting in two weeks.

In the meantime, Bertie County citizens needing services or answers to a specific issue are asked to first call and make an appointment.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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