By North Carolina Health News staff

Worker at Fayetteville Hardee’s tests positive for COVID-19

A Harnett County resident who worked for a Hardee’s in Fayetteville has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Cumberland County Department of Public Health said in a statement that it is urging people who were at the Hardee’s at 2309 Gillespie St. from March 27 to  April 7 to stay home and separate themselves from others if they start experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, coughing or shortness of breath.

The Hardee’s restaurant was following Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order and did not provide dine-in service to customers. No other Hardee’s locations in Cumberland County were affected.

graphic including an image of coronavirus

The health department said it was issuing the public notice because of the difficulty in identifying people who may have gone to the Hardee’s during the time the worker was either pre-symptomatic or symptomatic. – Greg Barnes

SECU and SECU Foundation contributing $10 million to disaster relief

The State Employees Credit Union and the foundation associated with it have committed to providing $5 million each to help with COVID-19 disaster relief efforts across the state.

The combined $10 million will be available to non-profit organizations providing food, shelter, and clothes and addressing financial assistance needs that have arisen during this pandemic.

The donations are also designed to support medical providers on the frontlines and others, according to a news release announcing the commitment.

“COVID-19 has presented a huge economic challenge for many North Carolinians,” Bob Brinson, chair of the credit union board, said in a statement. “We understand the financial struggles many of our members, families, friends, and neighbors are facing – the needs are tremendous.”

The SECU is a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its 2.5 million members, and for more than 82 years has provided North Carolina state employees and their families financial services.

“With such a sizable commitment, we will be able to partner with many top-notch service providers who make a difference in the lives of North Carolinians every day,” Mike Lord, president and CEO of SECU, added in a statement. “We will distribute funds where the need is immediate using structures already in place to provide the assistance.”

The SECU Foundation was set up to promote community development, primarily through projects related to housing, education and health care services.

“We deeply appreciate the front-line medical and other essential service providers who courageously serve the residents and communities of our state, and we are grateful for the opportunity to lend a helping hand to these efforts,” Jo Anne Sanford, the foundation board chair, said in a statement. — Anne Blythe

Coronavirus by the numbers

According to NCDHHS data, as of Friday morning:

  • 74 people total in North Carolina have died of COVID-19.
  • 3,908 have been diagnosed with the disease. Of those, 423 are in the hospital. The hospitalization figure is a snapshot of people with COVID-19 on a given day and does not represent all of the North Carolinians who may have been in the hospital throughout the course of the epidemic.
  • More than 57,000 tests have been completed thus far, though not all labs report their negative results to the state, so the actual number of completed COVID-19 tests is likely higher.
  • Most of the cases (40 percent) were in people ages 25-49. While 22 percent of the positive diagnoses were in people ages 65 and older, seniors make up 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the state.
  • 35 outbreaks are ongoing in group facilities across the state, including nursing homes, correctional and residential care facilities.
  • There are 2,996 ventilators in hospitals across the state, and 723 ventilators in use, not just for COVID-19 cases but also for patients with other reasons for being in the hospital.

Virtual egg hunts are all the rage this Easter

Egg hunts, the latest tradition to be disrupted by COVID-19, is going virtual. Here’s a taste of some egg-centric happenings from around the state:

The Richmond County Chamber of Commerce and Visit Richmond County hatched up a perfect Easter-centric activity for children. This week through Sunday, children from all over can participate in a virtual egg hunt. Everyone is invited to join, organizers said on the event’s Facebook page. The eggs will be hidden on community businesses’ websites and social media pages, they said. Children can take screenshots of the eggs they find and email them to or for a chance to win a special gift from local businesses around the county. Participating businesses are listed on the comments to the event’s page and include places such as Sly’s Famous Diner, Hudson Brothers Deli and East of Bliss Massage Therapy.

The Chapel Hill-based 1870 Farm is also holding an egg hunt over Zoom and Facebook live, this one is slated for Saturday at 10 a.m., according to the event page, with prizes including summer camp, classes and workshop tickets.

“All of your favorite farm animals, farmers & characters will be there to guide you through the farm while you hunt for easter eggs,” organizers said.

Creedmoor United Methodist Church, based in Granville County, is also opting for a Facebook Live egg hunt this year. The event is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m., organizers said on the event page. – Liora Engel-Smith

‘Moving protest’ demands release of incarcerated

As per an order from Gov. Roy Cooper, people cannot gather in groups of more than 10 people, so protesters have had to get creative.

A coalition of Charlotte-area community members held a Good Friday “moving protest” at noon. Protesters drove their cars in a route circling the Mecklenburg County Detention Center, the District Attorney’s office and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department headquarters.

Calling themselves Decarcerate Mecklenburg, the group is demanding that CMPD issue citations in lieu of arrests during the pandemic. In addition, they are demanding the release of pregnant women and anyone over 50, being held on bond or with less than six months left to serve.

“The threat of COVID-19 in our jail is heightened by the fact that Charlotte’s racist criminal legal system preys on people who are already vulnerable,” said organizer Kristie Puckett Williams. “Continued incarceration will result in negligent homicide in our jails.”

At least two employees of Mecklenburg County Jail have confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date. County officials have not released information about any of the more than 1,400 people incarcerated in Charlotte’s jails. — Melba Newsome

Presbyterian Psych provides mental health care for front-line workers

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found COVID-19 health care personnel in China had high levels of anxiety, depression and insomnia.

To provide care for Charlotte’s health care workers who are likely to experience similar mental health challenges, Presbyterian Psych is offering health care workers throughout Charlotte three free therapy sessions. It will also accept insurance for continued therapy or offer income-based sliding scale fees.

Presbyterian Psych already provides pro bono and financially assisted psychotherapy to the Charlotte police and fire departments and their families. — Melba Newsome

NC community colleges give back to their communities

Even though the pandemic has moved the state’s community college system to online classes, many of the colleges have been doing what they can to help their communities across the state.

Stanly Community College in Albemarle, which has a close relationship with Atrium Health Stanly during most school years through their health science programs, sent over four Siemens Maquet Servo-i Ventilators and other personal protective equipment to support patients and workers.

Many of the campuses, which have helped train generations of health care workers helping to fight the pandemic, have donated personal protective equipment used in their teaching programs to hospitals across the state.

Some of the campuses are in broadband-deprived areas such as Blue Ridge Community College and Southwestern Community College. Robeson Community College created “The Learning Lot,” a drive-in Wi-Fi area open to the students and public during specific hours. Social distancing requirements must be followed. A security camera monitors the lot.

At Wilkes Community College’s Ashe Campus, Chris Kearley, an applied engineering instructor, read about a Florida company using 3D printers to make face shields for health care workers and developed a way to do the same thing in North Carolina.

Others on campus joined in the effort and they have helped increase the supply at Ashe Memorial Hospital.

As many across the state are out of a job with so many businesses closed, some of the campuses are offering short-term online courses to help those out of work prepare for future jobs once things open up a bit. Others are offering webinars for businesses.

“Community colleges are living up their name during this difficult time for North Carolina,” Peter Hans, president of the NC Community College System, said in a statement. “We continue to deliver high-quality online instruction to our students and prepare our front-line health care and first responder workforce. But we are also serving our local communities, businesses and the state in so many other ways.” —Anne Blythe

More than 30 test positive for COVID-19 at Louisburg nursing home

Health officials in Franklin County announced that 33 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at Louisburg Nursing Center, 202 Smoke Tree Way in Louisburg.

Of those testing positive, 30 were residents of the nursing home and three were staff members, representing the first such cases in the county just north of Wake. Franklin County Health Director Scott LaVigne has posted a nine-minute video about the arrival of the potentially lethal virus in the county.

“If you were hoping and praying the virus would skip by Franklin County, unfortunately, I am here today to let everyone know it’s already here; it’s been here for at least a few weeks now,” LaVigne said. “And while it probably hasn’t hurt anyone you know yet, it will cause harm to someone you do know, and very soon, if we allow it to stay in our county without a fight.”

LaVigne did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The nursing home has an extensive history of citations by state health authorities, including in 2019 the failure to have a medication error rate of less than 5 percent, posting a failure rate of 11.5 percent instead. The facility was also cited for failing to enter an accurate diagnosis for two residents who were receiving antipsychotic drugs. — Thomas Goldsmith

shows several women putting food such as peanut butter into rows of cardboard boxes
Volunteers help pack 500 weekend food boxes at Alamance County’s Lamb’s Chapel. The boxes were distributed to the families of low-income students in the Alamance Burlington School System to tide them over the long holiday weekend. Photo credit: Impact Alamance

Alamance coalition gets kids fed over the long holiday weekend

Since North Carolina schools closed in March, many children have continued receiving lunches from their school districts. This has meant that essential workers such as cafeteria workers, bus drivers, school social workers and others have continued working to get those lunches out, even as their own children might be at home.

That’s been the case in Alamance County where almost 60 percent of the children in the Alamance-Burlington School System are eligible for free and reduced lunches.

Since schools closed, the district has provided more than a quarter million meals to children, not just students, in low-income families. The meals are a hot lunch and something for the next day’s breakfast.

“They set up 22 sites where families can come for grab-and-go meals,” said Tracey Grayzer, head of Impact Alamance, a local foundation that focuses on improving health in the community. “They also have more than 300 bus stops to deliver the food to families.

“It’s been an incredible effort on the part of the school system, and they had that figured out in three days. It’s been amazing.”

District officials, realizing their workers needed a break, reached out to Impact Alamance for help with feeding local families over the long holiday weekend.

“They asked us if there was anything we could do to help fill that gap over the four day weekend, knowing that Thursday was the last meal they’d deliver until Tuesday.”

Grayzer and her staff quickly pulled together a coalition from across the community: UnitedWay, the local faith council and a local business that donated money to buy the food. They amassed enough for 500 weekend food boxes consisting of pancake mix and syrup, canned food, prepackaged chicken and pasta meals, granola bars, peanut butter, bread and more.

They used small groups of volunteers, over several days, who set up and packed the boxes in Lamb’s Chapel, a local church, then delivered them to the schools, where the school social workers handed them out to families.

Grayzer said it was a mad scramble, but satisfying. She said her organization usually works on larger issues such as advocacy and organizing.

“We’ve had to shift what we’re doing to meet the needs of the community,” Grayzer said. “Our mission is to improve the health of the community and there’s no better way to do that than to serve those who need it the most.” – Rose Hoban

Mental Health Moment: There’s no sports this weekend… but wait!

Andrew Cotter, a veteran BBC sports broadcaster who usually calls rugby, golf and tennis matches, keeps his skills sharp giving the play-by-play on his two dogs’ competition over a squeaky toy.

Absolutely classic.

And speaking of sports, this video from the Carolina Panthers is well-written, well-shot and is intended to give a boost to Carolinians and sports fans that we’ll all get through this together.

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