The Strategic National Stockpile — an approximately $8 billion trove of medical supplies, including critical items such as masks and gowns, overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — is meant to help local governments stay equipped during public health emergencies. Buncombe County declared such an emergency due to COVID-19 on March 12, but according to Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator, none of the federal supplies had yet found their way into the hands of local health care workers.
During a press question and answer session on April 1, Tove said he wasn’t aware of any deliveries from the stockpile within Buncombe County. Federal supplies have been delivered to other parts of North Carolina by the National Guard over the past week, according to state Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry; during a March 24 press conference, he said “five trucks” of personal protective equipment had been distributed to state medical facilities.
However, the entire state is also operating with significantly less PPE than it has requested from the federal government. On April 1, Sprayberry said North Carolina had requested 500,000 each of N-95 masks, procedure masks, gowns, gloves, face shields and coveralls. Less than a third of the requested gloves, and less than 1% of the requested coveralls, have been received.
Cooper prohibits utility disconnections through May 30
Thanks to Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina families in financial distress due to COVID-19 have a bit less to worry about. In an executive order effective March 31, the governor blocked all providers of electricity, natural gas, water and wastewater treatment from cutting off service due to nonpayment for the next 60 days.
“Now is no time for people to be without water to wash their hands or forced into crowded temporary living quarters,” said Attorney General Josh Stein during a March 31 press conference in which state officials announced the move. While many companies had already decided to suspend disconnections during the COVID-19 crisis, he added, “government action is necessary to bring uniformity and clarity on these issues so we can better protect the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are now financially struggling.”
The order also strongly urged telecommunications companies to adopt similar disconnection policies, as well as waive reconnection fees and expand data caps. In addition, landlords and banks were encouraged to work with tenants and borrowers on payment arrangements to avoid evictions or defaults.
In other news
- On March 31, Mission Health announced that it would erect triage tents outside of its hospitals for additional capacity in the event of a surge in COVID-19 cases. A press release regarding the move noted that the health system would be conducting “training exercises and drills in the tents, allowing caregivers to become comfortable in the environment should the tents need to become operational.”
- An employee of North Henderson High, a part of the Henderson County Public Schools system, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 31. HCPS confirmed that the individual did not distribute meals or educational materials before showing symptoms and is currently in self-isolation.
- Brother Wolf Animal Rescue has shifted its protocols to allow virtual meet-and-greets with potential pets and conduct adoptions by appointment only. In an April 1 press release, Executive Director Leah Craig Fieser said the nonprofit had placed over 100 animals into homes during March.