How prepared is CarolinaEast based on the possibility of the virus striking hard in our area?
We are as prepared as we can be. We have created multiple additional care areas outfitted with isolation rooms, we have inventoried ventilators and all personal protective equipment, and we are cross training staff, among other things. Of course preventive measures such as visitor restrictions, stopping elective surgeries to conserve PPE, the screening of everyone entering the building for symptoms, etc.
Do Ray Leggett (president and CEO of CarolinaEast) or the Contract Company that staffs the ER have any comment or insights they wish to share?
Just that our front line staff have been incredible in their dedication to our organization and their profession.
Do they have PPE, ventilators, appropriate staffing, policies, and procedures, etc. in place?
Yes to all of these, absolutely.
How many ventilators do you have?
The types of ventilators vary and I do not have exact numbers, but we have the capacity to ventilate twice as many patients as we typically would.
We have more ventilators than we typically have ICU rooms. We do not want to publish our specific numbers because it is an ever-changing number as we are identifying as many ways as possible to meet the needs of our patients before they arise.
— Brandy Popp, Manager, Public Relations and Outreach, CarolinaEast Health System
While not full, the parking lot at the Walmart Supercenter on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in New Bern was crowded enough to cause gridlock around lunchtime Wednesday. Photos by Randy Foster / New Bern Post
Walmart’s efficiency at combining selection, services, and low prices may well be driving something else to its shopping aisles: COVID-19.
Experts in the field of epidemiology say that once a community-spread case of novel coronavirus appears, it means that the virulent, deadly virus is entrenched in that community.
Number of COVID-19 cases in Craven County. Graphic by Randy Foster / New Bern Post
Yet despite the news Tuesday of two new, community-spread cases of the disease in New Bern, Walmart continued to drive customers in search of good prices and, perhaps, toilet paper.
Gov. Roy Cooper issued a stay-at-home executive order that took effect at 5 p.m. Monday, but the order was so full of exemptions, it is virtually pointless.
Two obvious exemptions are grocery stores and pharmacies. Other things, like clothing, toys, electronics, garden supplies, and furnishings, are generally understood to be non-essential. Stores that specialize in those categories have been shuttered.
The parking lot at New Bern Mall was nearly empty on Wednesday as businesses at the mall honor a stay-at-home executive order.
That gives Walmart (and in all fairness, Target) a commercial advantage over competitors. Like all grocery stores and pharmacies that are staying open, so is Walmart, and while it’s open, it may as well sell kayaks and sun dresses, too.
The critical mass of retail goods at Walmart is creating another critical mass, one that nurtures and propagates a microscopic organism that can infect people without them knowing it, bake over a period of days while being contagious, and spread easily and widely. Most people who catch it feel fine or barely sick, but about one third of the time, people get very sick and sometimes die.
To try to keep this from happening, throughout the state, schools have shut down to on-campus teaching. Only faculty and staff are allowed on campus so that they can hold their classes online.
The faculty parking lot at New Bern High School was half-full on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, students attended class in the virtual world, using computers, tablets, and smart phones to listen to lectures and access course materials.
The student parking lot at New Bern High School was deserted on Wednesday.
Businesses in New Bern’s cherished, historic downtown were also obeying the stay-at-home order. Some restaurants struggled to remain open, offering curbside service.
The streets in Downtown New Bern, including the intersection of Craven and Pollock streets at City Hall, were quiet on Wednesday.
It is clear that some take the COVID-19 pandemic more seriously than others, and some hardly seem to take it seriously at all. Worse, they take advantage of it, meanwhile putting the community at greater peril.
Walmart and Target are not alone. Moen, one of Craven County’s largest employers, is still in business, despite shutting down for two days to scrub away potential COVID-19 contamination from an employee who contracted the virus.
Even places like O’Reilly’s Auto Parts continue to stay open (check out the lively comments among employees unhappy about that).
As COVID-19 continues to spread in the community, leaders will continue to issue stricter orders — the kind of orders that should have been issued before the virus got out of hand.
That point will level the playing field, and the petri dishes like Walmart will be forced to surrender their competitive advantage and close the remaining few gateways that allow COVID-19 to spread.
But by then the damage will have been done.
Meanwhile, life presents its usual challenges. It’s April 1 and the rent/mortgage is due. So are car payments, utility bills, credit card payments, and on, and on.
For people forced out of work because of COVID-19, these are challenging times not just for their health but for their finances.
But it need not be so injurious. The solution is really very simple. The most effective thing President Trump can do to protect the American consumer is to declare a financial holiday — no bills due, no bills paid, for anyone — not the average consumer, not the local merchant, not the hospital, not the automaker.
The $1,200 stimulus check that will arrive in two to three weeks (two to three weeks too late) is going to be chewed up by garden variety bills, when what everyone needs is financial security.
They need groceries, electricity, gasoline, and connectivity.
If that sounds too complicated, imagine how complicated it was for the federal government to conjure up nearly $4 trillion (and counting) to service this ongoing natural disaster.
Craven County has a COVID-19 case being treated at CarolinaEast Medical Center, one not reflected in the official numbers being reported by the Craven County Health Department or the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition to that, there are “a few others” at the hospital waiting for results on their tests and “many more” waiting for results at home, the Sun Journal reported.
The state and county have reported a total of six cases in Craven County since Tuesday morning.
Numbers released by the Craven County Health Department have tended to lag behind numbers reported by the state Department of Health and Human Services by a day or two. The New Bern Post is using state-reported figures as its primary source.
Meanwhile, Moen, a manufacturer of bathroom and kitchen fixtures and one of Craven County’s largest employers, shut down its plant in New Bern for cleaning after an employee tested positive for the virus, the Sun Journal reported.
Moen became aware that the employee tested positive for the virus on March 31. The individual has been self-quarantined at home since last week, when they first suspected they were sick, Moen said in a statement obtained by the Sun Journal.
“We’ve spoken to any colleagues the employee may have come in contact with to alert them of the situation and to request that they follow CDC guidelines and self-quarantine for 14 days. We immediately closed the facility for sanitation,” Moen said in the statement. “We also immediately contacted local health officials who characterized the risk to other workers at the facility as extremely low. Out of an abundance of caution, we’re bringing in a third party to deep clean and disinfect the workplace again, after a similar cleaning took place since the individual was last on site.”
Moen is expected to reopen on Thursday. The company said it would continue to monitor the situation at the New Bern facility. The company maintains it has gone beyond CDC guidelines to “enhance the safety” of the Moen workplace.
“We’d like to thank the employee for staying home when they suspected they may have been ill, and we are hoping for their full recovery. During these times, we have been emphasizing that our employees should stay home if they feel sick. Additionally, we have been offering employees options for taking time off, and we continue to encourage employees to utilize those options,” the company said in its statement.
Secretary of Revenue Ronald G. Penny announced today that the North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) is expanding tax relief as part of Governor Roy Cooper’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCDOR will not impose penalties for late filing or payments of many tax types, including sales and use and withholding taxes, through July 15. The NCDOR previously announced tax relief for individuals, corporations, partnerships, trusts, and estates.
“These measures will come as welcome tax relief for individuals and businesses across North Carolina,” Penny said. “We are providing the maximum flexibility under existing state law.”
In the notice issued today, the NCDOR announced that it will not impose penalties for failure to obtain a license, failure to file a return, or failure to pay a tax that is due on March 15, 2020 through July 15, 2020, if the corresponding license is obtained, return is filed, or tax is paid on or before July 15, 2020.
The NCDOR cannot waive interest from the due date under current state law–currently 5% per year, the minimum rate allowed by statute. Additionally, sales and use and withholding taxes are trust taxes and the money collected must be remitted to the state and cannot be used for other purposes.
The relief from Late Action Penalties applies to the following tax types:
• Withholding Tax
• Sales and Use Tax
• Scrap Tire Disposal Tax
• White Goods Disposal Tax;
• Motor Vehicle Lease and Subscription Tax
• Solid Waste Disposal Tax
• 911 Service Charge for Prepaid Telecommunications Service
• Dry-Cleaning Solvent Tax
• Primary Forest Products Tax
• Freight Car Line Companies
• Various Taxes Administered by the Excise Tax Division
Governor Roy Cooper today announced another step to help families by prohibiting utilities from disconnecting people who are unable to pay during this pandemic. Today’s Order applies to electric, gas, water and wastewater services for the next 60 days.
The Order directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills and prohibits them from collecting fees, penalties or interest for late payment.
Telecommunication companies that provide phone, cable and internet services are strongly urged to follow these same rules.
“This action is particularly important since tomorrow is the first of the month, and I know that’s a date many families fear when they can’t make ends meet,” said Governor Cooper. “These protections will help families stay in their homes and keep vital services like electricity, water, and communications going as we Stay at Home.”
Additionally, the Order encourages banks not to charge customers for overdraft fees, late fees and other penalties. Landlords are strongly encouraged in the Order to follow the spirit of Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s Order and delay any evictions that are already entered in the court system.
Governor Cooper was joined by Attorney General Josh Stein to announce the order and he thanked companies that have already voluntarily announced policies to prevent shutoffs, including Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, AT&T, and local electric co-ops, among many others. Today’s Order follows the Governor’s Stay At Home order, which is in effect until April 29.
The Council of State concurred with the Order today.
Frequently Asked Questions for Executive Order No. 124 March 31, 2020
This Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”) document provides guidance for the implementation of Executive Order No. 124 (“Order”).
In addition, check with your local government to determine whether additional restrictions exist in your area to limit the spread of COVID-19.
This information is subject to change in light of new CDC guidance and additional Executive Orders or local government declarations.
FAQs for Executive Order No. 124
When does this Order go into effect, and when does it expire?
This Executive Order is effective on March 31, 2020. It will remain in effect for sixty days or until adjusted by a superseding Executive Order. An Executive Order rescinding the State of Emergency in North Carolina will rescind this Executive Order.
Assisting NC Utility Customers
What protections does this EO provide to residential utility customers?
The Executive Order provides reasonable protections to residential utility customers in light of the COVID-19 emergency.
On Tuesday, March 31, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper issued an Executive Order that assists North Carolinians by prohibiting utility shut-offs and late fees, urging utility reconnection; providing guidance on eviction restrictions; and urging financial institutions, including banks and mortgage lenders, to implement relief measures for individuals and businesses who are experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19. This provides relief to North Carolinians harmed financially by COVID-19 and helps to slow the spread of COVID-19 by preventing homelessness and ensuring that people have access to essential utilities. Below are frequently asked questions and their answers.
The Order addresses the following:
• Prohibits utilities from shutting off people’s electricity, natural gas, and water service for nonpayment.
• Prohibits utilities from billing or collecting any fees, penalties, or interest for late or untimely payment.
• Directs utilities to give residential customers at least six months to pay outstanding bills without owing interest fees.
• Reminds customers they are responsible for paying bills for utility services received.
• Requires utilities to inform residential customers of important provisions in the Executive Order.
Why are these utility-customer protections needed?
Because of the Stay at Home Order, many North Carolina residents are at home and need access to electricity, water, and natural gas service. These services will help ensure that residents will be able to wash hands regularly and follow other best practices for safety and hygiene. This Executive Order also will facilitate access to education, telemedicine, and teleworking, activities that benefit public health and a strong economy.
What utilities are covered by this Executive Order?
This Order covers utilities that provide electricity, natural gas, water, or wastewater services, as well as those that provide a combination of these services to residential customers.
So my utility service provider cannot shut off my electricity, natural gas, or water service?
Correct. Your utility cannot shut off your residential service while the Executive Order is effective. But you are still responsible for paying your bills.
Does this mean I don’t have to pay my electricity, natural gas, or water bills?
No. All customers are still responsible for paying their utility bills.
Can I have more time to pay off my bills?
Utilities will offer extended repayment plans that allow residential customers at least six months to pay unpaid bills without owing interest charges. This six-month period will apply to outstanding bill payments accumulated during the effective period of this Executive Order plus 120 days.
Can utility providers charge me late fees?
As of March 31, 2020, no utility may bill or collect any fee, charge, penalty, or interest for a late or otherwise untimely payment.
To which types of utility customers does the Executive Order apply?
This Executive Order applies to residential customers.
How does this Executive Order impact actions by the North Carolina Utilities Commission on utilities shutoffs?
If there are differences between the Governor’s Order and an order issued by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, you should follow this order. Provisions of any order by the Commission apply if they are consistent with the Governor’s Order.
How will the requirements on utilities be enforced?
The North Carolina Utilities Commission will assist utilities with implementing the Executive Order and provide a weekly implementation report to the Governor. The Commission and the Attorney General are authorized to enforce the Executive Order through their existing legal authorities.
Guidance on Cable, Telecommunications, and Related Services
Does the Executive Order address providers of telephone, cellular, cable, and Internet service?
The Executive Order urges providers of telecommunications, mobile telecommunications, cable, Internet, and wireless Internet service to follow the guidelines described above for electricity, natural gas, and water utilities. In addition, telecommunications service providers are urged to lift data caps where they have not done so already.
Guidance on Eviction Proceedings
When does this Order go into effect, and when does it expire?
The guidance related to eviction proceedings should be considered effective immediately and should continue to be a consideration until April 17, or any later date that is subsequently ordered.
How does this impact the Chief Justice’s action on eviction?
The guidance in Governor Cooper’s Executive Order supports the Chief Justice’s action on eviction. Through this Order, the Governor encourages clerks of superior court and sheriffs to follow the spirit of Chief Justice Beasley’s order. The Governor, along with the Attorney General, encourages clerks of superior court to delay issuing any evictions, and encourages sheriffs to delay execution of eviction orders (“Writs of Possession of Real Property”) that have already been issued.
For additional information on Chief Justice Beasley’s action on eviction, visit https://www.nccourts.gov/covid-19-coronavirus-updates.
Does this mean the Sheriff can’t remove me from my home even if eviction orders have been issued?
Through this Executive Order, the Governor and Attorney General are encouraging sheriffs to delay executing eviction orders (“Writs of Possession of Real Property”). Sheriffs, however, still have the discretion not to follow this guidance and continue processing eviction orders that have already been issued.
How does this impact mortgage foreclosures?
Through the guidance in this Executive Order, the Governor and Attorney General encourage lenders to work with property owners to provide loan payment flexibility to avoid mortgage foreclosures.
Does this mean that tenants don’t have to pay rent?
The Governor’s Order neither relieves a tenant from the obligation to pay rent nor restrict the landlord’s ability to recover rent that is due, including any late fees or penalties.
I am a tenant and cannot pay my rent. What do I need to do?
We strongly encourage you to notify your landlord as soon as possible and discuss a plan for repayment. Renters may also call 2-1-1 to learn about potential rental assistance resources.
Will my bank still charge overdraft or other fees?
Financial institutions will still have discretion to apply fees. The Executive Order does, however, encourage financial institutions to assist customers who can demonstrate financial hardship caused by COVID-19.
Will I still have to make mortgage payments if I’m experiencing financial hardship caused by COVID-19?
This Order does not relieve customers from making any loan payments that are due. This Executive Order encourages financial institutions to consider financial hardship that customers may be experiencing due to COVID-19, but these institutions are not required to waive fees or make other accommodations.
WalletHub | Coronavirus isn’t just a danger to Americans’ health. It’s also a menace to our wallets. It’s led to the closing of scores of non-essential events and businesses, hurting the livelihood of many people.
The U.S. stock market has lost over 20 percent of its value, and the U.S. government was forced to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package. Some of the main features of the plan include sending checks to Americans, giving loans to businesses and providing extra funding for hospitals. Hopefully, this aid will start to turn the economic downturn around in a time when the number of unemployment insurance claims being filed is rising sharply.
Some states are better positioned economically to deal with the coronavirus pandemic than others. North Carolina is not among them. In a WalletHub comparison study, North Carolina ranked 15th worst in the nation.
To find out the states whose economies are most exposed to COVID-19, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 unique metrics. The data set ranges from share of employment from small businesses to share of workers with access to paid sick leave and increase in unemployment insurance claims. Read on for the full ranking, additional insight from a panel of experts and a complete description of our methodology.
Though far fewer in numbers than the nation, Craven County’s COVID-19 growth rate (left) is starting to resemble the same trajectory as the nation’s rate (inset, right).
With news of two more cases bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Craven County to six, the growth rate here is starting to resemble the same trajectory that is characteristic of novel coronavirus outbreaks around the world.
The first four cases in Craven County could be explained as being contracted from outside the community. However, the latest two cases seem to have been contracted from within Craven County. That means the virus is out in the community and could be wide-spread.
It takes several days for symptoms to emerge after contracting COVID-19, during which time the individual is contagious. Symptoms vary widely, from hardly any to life-threatening and deadly.
The purpose of Governor Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order, which took effect at 5 p.m. Monday, is to reduce the chances of people contracting the virus.
However, the order includes a large number of exceptions, ranging from grocery stores and pharmacies, to ABC stores.
On Tuesday morning in New Bern, downtown looked like a ghost town. But along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, traffic was moderate and parking lots, particularly at Walmart, were nearly full.
That indicates a large number of people are potentially exposed to the virus.
Unless the growth trajectory is flattened — using methods like the stay-at-home order — local medical capacity will be quickly overwhelmed.
Federal authorities estimate that COVID-19 will claim at least 100,000 lives across the nation. Stay-at-home loses its effectiveness as more people ignore the order.
Governor Cooper indicated that his executive order applies throughout the state. No county or community can allow relaxed versions of the order. However, counties and communities can issue orders with stricter provisions. That would be up to local leadership.
The situation changes by the hour, and Governor Cooper may decide to strengthen his stay-at-home order. Meanwhile, local leaders are free to issue their own orders strengthening efforts to reduce or prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The fifth and sixth cases of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in Craven County, and constitute Craven County’s first confirmed cases of community transmission.
Community transmission means there is spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. Both cases are adults who were tested at private physician offices in Craven County.
The tests were sent to LabCorp for testing. These confirmed cases were reported to the Craven County Health Department on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, by state health officials.
The individuals from each case have been in isolation since symptom onset and are recovering at home. Due to patient confidentiality, no additional details about these individuals or where they were tested can be provided.
Craven County public health officials have been in contact with both individuals since notified of the positive test results this morning. These cases are not related, nor are they related to any previous positive cases or to travel.
Craven County Health Department’s Communicable Disease staff is working to conduct contact tracing to make sure everyone who came into close contact with these individuals is quarantined. Close contact is anyone who was within six feet of the individual for 10 minutes or more. While Craven County has had six confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, four of those individuals have recovered, are doing well, and are out of isolation. Only one positive case resulted from the 25 tests completed at the drive-up test site at the Craven County Health Department held March 20, 23 and 25, 2020.
“The fact that we have confirmed community transmission does not change what we should be doing. It does reinforce the need to keep up the social distancing measures, hand washing and six feet of separation when we are out doing essential functions,” stated Scott Harrelson, Craven County Health Director.
Residents who feel they are symptomatic and in need of testing need to call ahead to their primary care physician to receive instructions for how to proceed. Anyone who is symptomatic should not just present at a medical provider’s office without calling ahead first.
Craven County Government COVID-19 updates will appear on the Craven County website atwww.cravencountync.gov, on the Craven County Facebook page@cravencountyand the Craven County Twitter account@cravencountync. Residents are also encouraged to register to receive notifications via the Craven County website and to register to receive emergency notifications via text, email and phone calls through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Craven County increased to five, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
The Craven County Health Department has not issued a news release about this fifth case. This article will be updated once that information is made available.
An employee at Carolina Orthopedics Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy tested positive for COVID-19. Carolina Orthopedics has offices in New Bern and Jacksonville, and a news release from them said the employee’s last day at either of their offices was Friday, March 20, 2020.
The employee is a resident of Pitt County and is recovering at home. It is unknown from information made available so far whether the employee is counted among Craven County’s five cases, Onslow County’s six cases, or Pitt County’s 16 cases.
There has been no information released as to whether the case was contracted from outside the state, or community-spread, and if community-spread, from which county.
The New Bern office is located at 738 Newman Road, New Bern, and the Jacksonville office is located at 201 Williamsburg Parkway, Jacksonville.
The employee has been in isolation since Monday, March 23, 2020, and is recovering at home in Pitt County.
“At Carolina Orthopedics, the safety and well-being of our patients, team members and the communities we serve is our top priority and we are proceeding with an abundance of caution,” the company said.
In response to the employee’s confirmed positive COVID-19 test, Carolina Orthopedics will be closed the week of March 30 through April 3.
“During this closure, we will sanitize and disinfect both of our offices to ensure the health and well-being of our patients, providers and staff,” the company said.