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With news Wednesday of a cluster of positive COVID-19 cases at the Halifax County Department of Social Services, County Manager Tony Brown said in a statement Wednesday night the county “has taken deliberate and methodical steps to protect our employees and the citizens we serve.”

Brown said, “We take this pandemic very seriously and continue to take every precaution to protect our employees and any citizens with whom we interact. In fact, we were one of the first counties in the state to declare a state of emergency and close our offices to the public.”

During Phase 1 of Governor Roy Cooper’s declaration, Brown said, “We adapted by allowing employees to remain at home but critical employees had to continue to provide services.”

Those critical employees work within the health department, sheriff’s office, detention center, EMS, the 911 center, and DSS.

Thus, Brown said, “We had to continue to find practical ways to provide these services while ensuring the safety of our employees. We had skeleton crew operations during this phase one.”

Said Brown: “We continue to remain closed to the public. County services still continue to be provided by appointment, phone or online.”

Each time there is an exposure in any department or building, the county immediately sanitizes and disinfects the entire area. “Employees who have tested positive are required to self-quarantine at home,” the county manager said. “Except for critical infrastructure employees, we advise employees who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive person to self-quarantine.  Exposure to a person with a positive COVID-19 result is determined by contact tracing performed by the county health department.”

Regarding what he referred to as critical infrastructure employees, he said the county strives to follow CDC guidance for implementing safety practices for employees who may have had exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. “These employees are not required to self-quarantine so long as they comply with the safety measures set forth in CDC guidelines.”

Health Director Bruce Robistow today declined to give the specific number of employees who have tested positive at DSS.

He said Wednesday the health department’s investigation showed the work environment at DSS was satisfactory and conducive to ensuring a safe workplace for all staff. He said, however, the county’s investigation of compliance outside the work environment has been less impressive.

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard does not break down positive cases within government settings in a county by county format. Instead it only gives the number of clusters, the total cluster-related cases and the number of deaths.

In its latest report on Monday the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported there were 42 clusters within government service settings. There were 335 cases and one death.

Daily update 

Meanwhile, in its update for today, the health department reported there have been 1,184 — 83.62 percent — recoveries and 205 — 14.48 percent — current cases.

The county added 18 new positive cases for a cumulative total since testing began in March of 1,430.

There have been 27 deaths related to COVID-19 in Halifax County with the following breakdown: 17 within the Roanoke Rapids area ZIP code; three within the Weldon area ZIP code; two within the Enfield area ZIP code; two within the Scotland Neck area ZIP code; one within the Halifax area ZIP code; one within the Hollister area ZIP code; and one within the Littleton area ZIP code.

Today’s report shows an increase in the trend since March 25.

Northampton County

The health department reported Wednesday there were 588 total positive cases of which 523 have recovered. There were 45 active cases.

The health department reported one additional death which brings its total to 20.