By Tammy Dunn

 

Eleven local residents have been tested for the coronavirus in Montgomery County according to Montgomery County Health Director Mary Perez; however, only two test results have been completed as of Tuesday, and both of those were negative for the coronavirus. Test results from one of their private partners takes 10-12 hours normally; however, during this crisis Perez said it is understandable if it takes longer. Test results from the state take 7-10 days. Nine of the 11 tested were sent to the state.

Perez said that if a patient shows positive they will be quarantined and health department personnel will monitor them at least twice a day. The department is currently in contact with an 85-year-old man who chose to self-quarantine due to possible exposure; however, this individual has not been tested to date. If he displays any symptoms he will then be tested noted Perez. Additionally, Perez noted that anyone who thinks they might have the virus should call ahead to the provider, the health department or the hospital, rather than just showing up. Providers and other medical personnel must first rule out the flu before testing for COVID-19. Perez said the local health department does not have any of the rapid flu tests; however, most of the private providers do and they will come to your vehicle and test you in order to prevent additional spread.

At the current time, Perez did note they do have plenty of supplies and they are expecting additional supplies this week from the Strategic National Stockpile. Staff is working diligently on this crisis noted Perez; however, they are down three nurses and the staff faces the same issues as everyone else during this pandemic.

 

Montgomery County Schools Students

Montgomery County Schools released this statement on Monday as part of the directive on the two-week closure of schools ordered by Gov. Roy Cooper. “During this time, it is our goal to ensure that student learning is impacted as little as possible. Teachers have prepared assignments in Canvas or Google Classrooms for middle and high school students.” Additionally, all CCP classes will be delivered online through Montgomery Community College. Students were directed to contact their instructor by email for instructions on completing coursework. 

Students were able to pick up any personal items that were left at school on Friday as well as electronic devices, including laptops, yesterday. Students lacking internet access capability at home will be able to visit any of our school parking lots to download Canvas materials as well as to access any internet resources needed. Elementary school students were able to pick up their packets yesterday as well at several different sites in the community.

Parents are encouraged to use email to communicate with teachers.

One of the biggest concerns for school personnel and the community at large is not only the loss of instructional time, but the lack of access to daily meals for students. School personnel created a plan to operate a drive-thru lunch service at five community sites during this closure: a bag lunch at these five sites for five days a week for students. In addition, Communities in Schools will operate a supplemental nutrition program for two days each week for any community member (one bag per family) facing food insecurity.

Those sites include Star Elementary, Green Ridge Elementary, Candor Elementary, Page Street Elementary and Mount Gilead Elementary. The Communities In Schools bags are available on Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The MCS Grab-and-Go lunches are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In addition to our school sites, beginning Wednesday, March 18 we will be providing additional community stops for our Grab-and-Go lunches for Montgomery County Schools’ students to help better serve our most at-risk communities. Buses will be delivering lunches and breakfast for the following day to the following community sites at the designated times:

• C & M Trailer Park – 11:30 a.m.

• Brutonville/Emmanuel Pentecostal Church – noon

• Pepsi Land Trailer Park – 11:30 a.m.

• Belle Acres/Hummingbird Lane – noon

• Acapulco Drive – 12:30 p.m.

• Weavertown/Mt. Moriah Church – 11:30 a.m.

• Crosstown/Hood Chapel – noon

• Forest Drive Apartments behind Bojangles – 12:30 p.m.

• Parkertown/St. Luke Church of God – 11:30 a.m.

• Rocky Knoll – 11:30 a.m.

• Holt Circle Drive – noon

• Dollar General at Badin Lake – noon

• Black Ankle Convenient Store – noon

Please be patient with us as we work through this process. Delivery times between sites may vary as we work to accommodate demand.

School Staff

With Gov. Cooper directing the closure of all public schools in North Carolina for at least two weeks, Montgomery County School personnel began implementation of their plans.

Montgomery County Schools had a required workday for all 10-, 11- and 12-month salaried staff on Monday and a half-day workday for staff on Tuesday. In addition Thursday, March 26, and Friday, March 27, “will also be required workdays to help prepare for students to return to school or to make preparations for a longer closure,” stated Dr. Dale Ellis, MCS superintendent. The other days that are not required workdays will be flex days for staff. Staff may choose to work at their dedicated workstation, or may choose to work from home. If the home option is chosen, it must be first discussed with immediate supervisors regarding the work they plan to accomplish while at home. Staff may also choose to use leave for those days if there is no significant work product they can work on from home or if they wish to take that time off. Ellis noted, “This flexible schedule is only in effect during the current two-week closure. If the school closure is extended, we will re-evaluate how to proceed at that time.” Hourly employees who are not full-time and who usually do not work when students are out should not be working during this time. The school system was looking at alternatives to try to get these workers some work time to minimize the impact; however, Ellis learned, “If we force a few hours here and there for hourly employees, it may impact their ability to file for unemployment. We have been left with the impression that unemployment is the best avenue for these employees because the shutdown means that work is unavailable for them. While normal shutdowns in the calendar (Christmas, summer, etc.) do not count for unavailability of work under the law, this shutdown does count as a lack of available work for which they may apply for unemployment benefits.” 

 

Montgomery Community College

Montgomery Community College campuses will be closed to the public until March 31. Curriculum instruction will continue online or in a format defined by the program's instructor. Curriculum students should check email frequently for updates. This information and the following were released from MCC’s Public Information Officer Michele Haywood.

In regard to Career and College Promise (high school) students, all college classes will continue online, including Agriculture, Automotive, Culinary, Carpentry, Electrical, Masonry, and Welding. If students have questions they should contact Shaquille Little at littles@montgomery.edu or they may call (910) 898-9621.

All campus events, including NRA short-term classes and Pottery classes, have been canceled. Students in other continuing education classes will be notified individually regarding status of classes. If a student is in a continuing education class and has not been otherwise contacted, they should call 910-898-9672 for status updates. For NRA classes, only those that start before March 31 have been canceled. The college has yet to determine what will happen after that. Updates regarding the college response to COVID-19 will be posted to www.montgomery.edu/covid-19. People may email covid19@montgomery.edu with specific questions.

 

Towns

Troy

Troy Town Manager announced these changes over the weekend in regard to the town’s response to the coronavirus.

The Troy-Montgomery Senior Center has shut down operations, with the exception of continuing to be a hub for home delivered meals to be disbursed.  In addition, senior center staff is continuing to work with the county to ensure those who would have attended the congregate nutrition site continue to receive food.  As it stands right now, the “idea” is to allow for RCATS to bring the participants to the center and staff will go out and provide curbside service by delivering the “Grab and Go” meals to the passengers.Senior Center staff will continue to be accessible at the center via telephone for those who may call in with questions. Staff will also work to completely disinfect and sanitize the entire center.

Staff has brought in an individual to smoke and fog all of the duct work at the Town Hall, senior center, fire department, police station, Denson Creek facilities and public works facilities.  This procedure will assist in eliminating any mold, spores, viruses, or bacteria that may have been present.  

Town staff has reached out to the entertainment providers about the postponing of the April 2 concert at the Troy TownStage.  The April 16 event is still on schedule since we are a month out, however, that will be reassessed within the next week to 10 days.

Chief Atkins has already listed to his officers guidelines as they pertain to utilizing gloves at all times, per CDC standards, facemasks are optional; attempt to handle non-emergency calls over the phone, and when possible maintain a 6-foot distance from individuals.  

The board approved a Declaration of a State of Emergency in the event it is needed. This is an anticipation of any issues becoming greater than what they are now, and ensuring by doing so the town will be able to apply for state and federal funding under both the state and federal declarations of emergency. The town is asking that all water and sewer customers and those wishing to pay taxes to utilize the drive-thru window.

During this time the board also agreed to the following: Currently all customers are granted three (3) extensions over a two (2) year period on their water/sewer bill without a reconnect fee.   The town’s water/sewer policy/disconnection policy was amended and  an additional “hold” was granted to each customer for bills due March 20, with extensions to be held no longer than April 5 and no disconnection of service until after that date.  Town Manager Greg Zephir said, “Staff is trying to reduce the hardship on all citizens and customers who may be affected, while at the same time maintain the town’s fiduciary responsibility with regards to ensuring that the enterprise system brings in the amount of revenue needed to pay the bills.”

All green spaces and parks which are open will remain open for use; however, all bathroom facilities will be locked.

 

Mt. Gilead

Town Hall is closed to the public in response to COVID-19. Staff will still be working to provide essential services during this time. Effective immediately and until further notice, the town of Mount Gilead will not disconnect services for non-payment of any account type. Utility payments can still be made in a variety of ways:

•By mail at P.O. Box 325

•Online at mtgileadnc.com

•Using the drop-box at Town Hall or

•During regular business hours, at the drive-thru window at the rear of the Mount Gilead Police Department.  The department is located at 123 North Main Street.

Public facilities such as park pavilions and bathrooms will remain closed.

We can still be reached by phone during regular business hours by calling 910-439-5111. 

Town Manager Matthew Christian said, “All non-essential travel and meetings are canceled and the planned board retreat has been postponed.” He also noted, “We plan to maintain access to services over these next two weeks and then reassess.” 

Biscoe

The Town of Biscoe declared a state of emergency yesterday and will limit use of public facilities, including for parks and recreation programming, and in-person bill-pay at Town Hall. Administrative offices and restrooms will be closed to the public; however, staff will continue to work. This situation will be re-evaluated based on changing assessments of risk from the state, the county and the public-school system. Notification methods are currently being developed to ensure residents will be able to receive services, pay bills, and get help from first-responders if the situation changes. Customer Service will ensure residents are aware of the drop-box at Town Hall they can use it to pay bills. Until the state of emergency is lifted there will be no utility disconnections due to non-payment. 

Candor

Town of Candor officials released their plans late Tuesday afternoon. These plans are effective immediately and will remain in effect until further notice. Town Hall in Candor is now closed to the public in response to COVID-19. Town Staff will continue to provide essential services during this time. We encourage others to practice social distancing recommendations provided by our State and Federal governments. Effective until further notice, the Town of Candor will not disconnect services for non-payment of water/sewer services. Late fees for payments due March 19 will be waived. Utility payments can still be made in a variety of ways:

•By mail at PO Box 220

•Online at www.townofcandornc.com

•Using the drop-box at Town Hall for a check or money order. DO NOT put cash in the drop box.

Restrooms at the Park will remain locked.

Town staff can still be reached by phone during limited office hours by calling 910-974-4221. For immediate assistance with leaks call 910-571-8443 or 910-573-1257.

County

County Manager Matthew Woodard met with department heads handling essential services yesterday afternoon to make out their plan for a worst case scenario. Woodard asked these individuals to identify critical functions in their department and a viable plan for meeting those needs without personal contact.

Woodard expressed three areas of top concern due in large part to a shortage of staff in those departments. Those included the county water department, the 911 call center and the health department, all three of which are currently understaffed. 

At the county water department there are only three certified operators, one of which must be on site at all times. In the 911 call center there are only seven dispatchers total, with two to a shift and the health department is short three nurses. 

When needed Woodard wants the county to be able to go into a quarantine type mode with a designated individual assigned to stay on site for a two-week period. The county will provide the extra pay and services that may be needed during that time to make this a viable plan. Woodard’s thinking is that by doing this it will cut down on the potential for exposure for those personnel deemed critical during this time. 

With other county functions that are deemed necessary IT Director Brian Helms is looking at securing laptops for employees to take home with them in order for work to continue. The county is nearing the end of a multiyear revaluation and tax notices must meet certain state mandated deadlines. Tax Supervisor Vickie Maness said with the appropriate software working from home would be a viable solution for her office and allow them to meet the necessary deadlines. 

Emergency Management Director Robbie Smith is already in discussions with FirstHealth paramedics and first responder units in the county to ensure services will continue and that all will work together to assist county residents. Smith has also ordered additional masks, gowns and sanitizer. 

Other steps the county is taking include: no water cutoffs for the next three months, barring all but employees from he 911 Center and checking the temperature of employees entering the 911 Center.

Handy Sanitary

Handy Sanitary District’s Board meeting scheduled for March 17 was canceled. Staff also released this statement, “Due to the potential for the coronavirus, our inside window will be closed until April 17, at which time we will reassess the situation.  Please use our drive-up window or night drop.  Payments can also be mailed and made online.”

 

Medicines

Standard Drug pharmacist Angela Elkins stated, “We intend to stay open and serve our customers. We continue to monitor the latest events with Covid-19.  Taking care of our patients and staff are our top priority. As part of our protocols, our pharmacy has heightened our cleaning and disinfecting procedures to maintain a healthy environment.  We are following the CDC recommended procedures and partnering with the local health department to follow guidelines.  Our suppliers are closely surveying the global manufacturing environment and do not see any interruptions in the supply chain to affect our ability to fill and refill maintenance medications.  We are recommending to our customers to utilize our drive-thru for dropping off and picking up prescriptions; use mobile apps or phone for refill requests; sign up to receive text or calls when prescriptions are ready for pick up.  Our priority is keeping everyone healthy.”

 

 

Court System

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Pat Nadolski said in regard to the court system, “There will be no regular District or Superior Court for the next 30 days.  However, the Clerk and DA’s Office will remain open.  Certain hearings such as bond motions, first appearances and probable cause hearings will still be held.  We will be working with the Clerk and Judges to address cases that are in custody.  We will balance safety concerns with the need to address custody cases and take all available precautions.”