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COVID-19 sparks precautionary local policies, cancellations

While no cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in Beaufort County or surrounding counties so far, a number of local agencies and organizations have implemented additional precautions or communications tools to help disseminate timely information regarding public health measures. A number of events have also been cancelled. Cancellations can be sent to news@thewashingtondailynews.com for publication.

PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCIES

The Beaufort County Health Department has an established page on the county website to share pertinent information about COVID-19. The site contains helpful resources compiled by the health department, as well as links to important topics from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. These resources can be accessed at co.beaufort.nc.us/departments/human-services/public-health/2019-coronavirus-covid-19. In addition, up-to-date, accurate statewide and national information on the virus can be accessed at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus and cdc.gov/coronavirus, respectively.

VIDANT HEALTH

Vidant Health has established a webpage specifically to share updates about COVID-19 and any potential impacts on the hospital system. That site can be accessed at www.vidanthealth.com/COVID-19-Updates. According to a frequently asked questions page on the site, the hospital system has a protocol in place for COVID-19 that is similar to handling the flu, and Vidant staff members have been trained to handle cases as they arise.

BEAUFORT COUNTY SCHOOLS

At Beaufort County Schools, classes remain on a normal schedule for the time being, though the school system is implementing precautionary policies to maintain a healthy environment for students and staff.

As of Thursday, BCS Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman said that all field trips have been suspended for the remainder of the school year. Business-related travel outside of Beaufort County has also been suspended for all BCS employees until further notice. An automated phone message was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday to inform parents of these decisions.

“We’re currently working with the Beaufort County Health Department and following their guidance and also receiving support from them in the event this really starts impacting Beaufort County,” Cheeseman said. “Also, we’re working with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the state, seeking guidance from them.”

Cheeseman said local schools are also being cleaned more rigorously to keep ahead of any illness. He encouraged school system staff, students and families to stay home and seek medical treatment if they are not feeling well.

BEAUFORT COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

While BCCC is continuing to operate under a normal schedule for the time being, the college has an emergency communications plan in place and is regularly updating its website in regards to COVID-19. The latest info from BCCC and any cancellations can be found at www.beaufortccc.edu/alerts and will also be sent via text and email to faculty, staff and students. At this time, there is no plan to discontinue the meeting of face-to-face classes at the college.

“BCCC continues to monitor national, state, and local health organizations,” said BCCC President Dr. David Loope in a statement Tuesday. “We have reviewed preventive measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and the Beaufort County Health Department. College representatives meet weekly with the Beaufort County Health Department to gain the latest information and recommendations for our community. BCCC will take appropriate actions, as recommended by State and local health services, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Like BCS, the college continues to maintain a rigorous cleaning schedule on campus, with plans to step up cleaning in the event COVID-19 affects Beaufort County.

HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS

In the world of sports, concerns over COVID-19 sparked widespread cancellations and postponements on Thursday, from national leagues to the NCAA. For high school sports, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association has suspended all interscholastic athletics through April 6, including workouts, skill development, practices and contests.

NCHSAA suspends the spring sports season until April 6

BEAUFORT COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

On Wednesday evening, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office announced restrictions on visits to the Beaufort County Detention Center until further notice. All regular and special visits are cancelled, as well as in-person visits between attorneys and their clients. Attorneys may call the jail to schedule a phone call with their client, and the BCSO says its staff will make every effort to accommodate those requests, but space and staffing are limited.

“We understand this may present a hardship on all involved, but we are committed to the safety of our population,” a BCSO release said. ”These policies will remain in effect until the appropriate authorities determine it is safe to resume regular operations.”

ARTS OF THE PAMLICO

Arts of the Pamlico has postponed its annual Comedy Fest this weekend, and a Beaufort County Concert Association performance scheduled for next Thursday has also been postponed.  East Carolina University has cancelled its upcoming production of “The Fantastiks” at the theater.

“The safety and security of our guests and employees is our highest priority,” AOP posted on social media Thursday. “We are following the lead of our city, state and federal officials as we implement strategies recommended by public health authorities and the Center for Disease Control CDC for our events.”

Any updates on cancellations will be posted on social media and at www.artsofthepamlico.org/events.

CITY OF WASHINGTON

According to an announcement made by the City of Washington on Thursday, there have been no decisions made regarding cancelling any planned city or countywide events. The city is in contact daily with local health officials and other local governments in planning for any response.