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The Halifax County COVID-19 count remains at 10, health system Director Bruce Robistow told commissioners this morning.

Of those 10 cases, two are doing better he said. The meeting was live streamed via phone and a photo sent by County Manager Tony Brown shows the social distancing methods the board used while holding the meeting, which was limited to 10 people.

Robistow said since the count last week which brought the number of cases to 10, “We’ve had nothing but negative test results.”

He said in travels around the county, “The majority are following the guidelines, which is critical.”

The health director said there has been outpouring from civic clubs and businesses. 

Weldon Mills Distillery produced a second batch of hand sanitizer which was donated to the health system, which in turn handed it over to Emergency Management Coordinator Buddy Wrenn.

Quilting clubs have made masks and Enfield-based AmeriCap, which is owned by Commissioner Patrick Qualls and his brother Carl have started making cloth masks.

Robistow said this week and into next week are going to be critical in the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The Washington Post reported Sunday evening United States Surgeon Jerome Adams said on Fox News, “This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.”

While the county’s count has held at 10 since Thursday and there have been no deaths, Robistow told commissioners, “Let’s not let that good news go to our heads.”

Qualls told Robistow his wife is an ICU nurse in a COVID-19 unit and has had friends bring her N-95 masks. “That’s pretty special.”

Commissioner Marcelle Smith asked Robistow to explain why only the number of cases was being reported by the health system and not a general geographic location in the county.

Robistow responded with a condensed version of an email he released last week which stated he relies on the three following factors:

Objective information – information that he receives from a trusted source providing him with accurate, science-based information. He shares those results as received.

Subjective information – information gleaned through investigation that is almost always received through conversation or history, therefore rendering it subjective. He does not report subjective information.

Personal and private information — information regarding the patient. “Patient information is federally protected and obviously I would not report anything that is protected information.”

Said the email: “I do receive numerous requests for information such as where in the county are the positives located. Or ... how did the positive contract the virus. As we have many small towns in our county, some with less than 500 citizens, providing such information would make it possible to stratify this form of information and could result in narrowing down who the patient is. Or, could possibly be stratified to single out the wrong person.”

Robistow said in that email, “ … I see no value in reporting such information. The guidelines for mitigation clearly recommend that you protect yourself from everyone. Singling any logistical information would only present an opportunity to possibly become complacent in areas or venues that could be perceived as safe. Rest assured, however, that all information is shared with agencies that will use the data to be scientifically analyzed and the results will be used for scientific purposes.”

He likened the situation to commissioners if it was reported someone in the county seat of Halifax had a positive test result. “It’s easy to determine who it is. What are we going to do? Stay away? We should be staying away from everybody.”

Coughs and sneezing due to allergies can result in “negative repercussions and would be unfortunate. I think these are all valid reasons (for not reporting general locations),” he said.

Asked about a peak in the cases, Robistow said, “Any prediction of a peak right now, there is not enough accurate data for me to be able to project or predict an apex of COVID-19 cases in Halifax County.”

Robistow also said cloth masks are not designed to protect the wearer — they are designed to prevent the wearer from spreading any contaminants to others. “Social distancing is critical in preventing community spread and handwashing is critical in preventing contamination to yourself and reduces the potential of contaminating others.”

Businesses, he said, are trying to do their part in preventing the spread. “Some have glass screens, marks on floors. Walmart has one door open. The store is minimizing the flow. If you are in a bottleneck, you are the problem.”

He also mentioned neckties at the beginning of his presentation to the board. “They have been known to be spreaders of infection especially in healthcare. You don’t wash them, you’re always touching it and it is an appendage that can come into contact with other services unintended.”