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Church bells rang out Sunday morning in Spring Hope, but sanctuary pews sat empty.
Spring Hope seemed like a ghost town over the weekend with church doors closed and events canceled due to concerns related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
COVID-19 cases in North Carolina have reached double digits. Nash UNC Health Care confirmed the spouse of a staff member tested positive for the disease. Other cases have been identified in nearby Wilson, Wake, Johnston and Chatham counties. A Wake County elementary teacher is among the ill, according to information provided by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Many churches in the area have canceled worship services for up to two weeks.
“After much consideration of the current updates about the coronavirus, our deacons and I have decided it to be the best measure for everyone’s health to cancel our worship services for the next two Sundays,” said Kevin Moore, pastor of First Baptist Church of Spring Hope.
Moore said he is praying for everyone in his March 13 closure announcement made via social media.
“If ever there was a time for us to be the church, now is certainly one of those times,” Moore said. “Check on your loved ones, friends and neighbors. One of the greatest gifts God gives us in Jesus is the gift of hope. May that be our prayer and our word.”
While a few children enjoyed the new playground equipment at Spring Hope Community Park on Saturday, town and county officials called off the planned playground grand opening. The ribbon-cutting has been postponed to a date to be determined, said Thomas Gillespie, director of Nash County Parks and Recreation.
Students and teachers learned Saturday that all public schools have been shut down for at least two weeks.
The N.C. Division of Prisons suspended visitation to state prisons including Nash Correctional Institution in Momeyer.
“We are not aware of any cases of COVID-19 in our prison system. However, ensuring staff health and safety is a top priority for the Division of Prisons,” Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee said in a press release.
Folks should take COVID-19 seriously, but continue to live their daily lives when possible, particularly people who are not in a high-risk group. But always practice proper hygiene, said Nash County Health Director Bill Hill.
“We are at a critical point when such proper cleaning and hygiene measures can impact the spread of the disease,” Hill said. “The best thing we can do to protect ourselves and our community is ensure that we are getting accurate information.”
The Spring Hope Chamber of Commerce canceled its community yard sale that was scheduled for this Saturday in downtown Spring Hope.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Nash County native, declared a state of emergency on March 10. Cooper said the declaration will increase response flexibility and speed up the allocation of funds when needed.
Late last week, Cooper banned any event with more than 100 participants. On Tuesday, he closed all restaurants and bars for dine-in services.
Health officials recommend that people with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, call their health care provider and avoid going into public areas. People who are high-risk, which is anyone over 65 or anyone with underlying health conditions, should avoid large groups of people as much as possible such as sporting events, concerts, mass gatherings or social functions.
People who are high-risk are urged to avoid air travel and avoid travel by cruise ship.
Hill said steps taken to prevent the spread of flu and the common cold could also help prevent the spread of other respiratory viruses like COVID-19.
“We all have a duty to help prevent the spread of the disease and to take specific steps to protect ourselves from getting COVID-19,” Sharpsburg Mayor Robert Williams said in a press release.
North Carolinians who have questions and concerns about coronavirus can call 866-462-3821. The helpline is staffed by North Carolina Poison Control registered nurses and pharmacists 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can provide information on transmission, risk, symptoms and instructions if coronavirus is suspected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the following steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.