An eerie calm has lingered over Alamance County since Monday afternoon when a statewide stay-at-home order that Governor Roy Cooper had issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic went into effect. In the meantime, the county’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases still hadn’t crept out of the single digits on Wednesday, with two thirds of the infected individuals having already recovered by that point.
As of 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Alamance County had reported nine confirmed cases of COVID-19, the strain of the coronavirus that’s responsible for the current pandemic. According to the county’s emergency management office, six of the nine patients who had tested positive for this virus had “recovered from illness” by Tuesday and “are now out of isolation.”
Some information on the county’s standard response to each new COVID-19 case appears in “situation report” that the emergency management office compiled after a conference call on Tuesday. According to this report, the local health department shares the address of each person who tests positive with the county’s 9-1-1 center, which dispatches personnel to the location. The address is also placed under “a dispatch flag,” which is only removed when the 9-1-1 center gets word that the patient has recovered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend “self-isolation” at home for people with mild symptoms from a coronavirus infection. Self-isolation appears to have sufficed for most of the county’s positive patients – all of whom “complied with [the] health department’s control measures,” according to Tuesday’s situation report.
The CDC concedes that hospitalization may be necessary for people who develop severe symptoms after infection. Doug Allred, a spokesman for Cone Health Systems, told The Alamance News that, as of Wednesday afternoon, Alamance Regional Medical Center was caring for one person with COVID-19.
As medical and emergency services officials continue to grapple with the pandemic, local law enforcement agencies have mustered their forces to ensure that area residents are taking the governor’s mandates seriously.
Burlington’s city manager Hardin Watkins told The Alamance News that, even before the implementation of the stay-at-home order, the city had received 12 calls about “apparent violations” of previous gubernatorial directives. These calls reportedly concerned gatherings of more than 10 people or businesses that were operating despite statewide shutdown orders. Watkins added that, in each case, the city’s police department dispatched officers to the scene to make sure that the alleged violators understood the governor’s order and persuade them to follow the rules.
“All have been cooperative,” the city manager added, “and there has been little if any resistance.”
Brian Long, an assistant chief with the city’s police department, acknowledged that things have generally been quiet since the governor’s stay-at-home order took effect at 5:00 p.m. on Monday.
“We’ve probably had four or five additional calls [about violations of gubernatorial orders],” Long recalled in an interview Wednesday, “and in each case, we got voluntary compliance.”
Long conceded that one recent call concerned a gathering of several dozen people outside of Occasions Catering along East Front Street. The assistant chief added that the crowd had apparently formed after Occasions announced it would distribute free meals to anyone interested.
“They had small groups show up and we’re trying to educate them on social distancing,” he added. “Occasions was extremely cooperative. They were trying to do a good thing, and I think they were trying to do the best they could.”
Things have also been quiet for the office of Alamance County’s sheriff since the governor’s stay-at-home order took effect. According to the sheriff’s official spokesman Byron Tucker, there haven’t been any complaints about residents who’ve refused to comply with the order. The sheriff’s office has nevertheless stationed additional deputies at Alamance County’s landfill, which has seen business pick up in the wake of the governor’s order. The agency has also adjusted its response to non-emergency calls in order to avoid the risk of infection.
“For non-emergency calls,” Tucker said, “were very likely to call the caller to see if it’s something we can handle by phone…But we’re totally at full force in the field…So far it’s still business as usual, although we are not holding drivers license and [drunk driving] check points.”
Long said that the risk of infection has also compelled Burlington’s police department to change its protocols for interactions with residents who call the police. The assistant police chief said that officers have been instructed to flip their usual approach in light of the CDC’s recommendation that people give each other a 6-foot berth.
“We may ask you to step outside instead of the officer stepping inside,” he explained, “so we can practice social distancing with you.”
Tucker acknowledged that the practice of social distancing has also come into vogue within Alamance County’s jail.
“Of course, we’re not allowing visits in the jail,” the sheriff’s spokesman elaborated. “And one thing that we’re noticed is that, because the courts aren’t running at full capacity, our population in the detention center has gone down.”
The ongoing pandemic has also provoked a response from the county’s board of commissioners. Amy Scott Galey, the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, said that the board’s members will exercise an extra degree of caution when they convene their next regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday.
“We’re going to talk about that this afternoon,” She said in an interview Wednesday. “But what we’re considering is having three commissioners physically present and the other two can call in and participate remotely. We’re also going to stream the meeting live online.” Galey added that, aside from three of the commissioners, a bare-bone contingent of 10 staff members will also be present inside the board’s meeting chamber on Monday. She acknowledged that members of the public won’t be admitted into the room, which will rule out any opportunities for public comments at the forthcoming meeting. Reporters will also be prohibited from attending the meeting in person under the county’s tentative plans. Galey said that the county will look for a way to accommodate public feedback at this month’s second semimonthly meeting on April 20.