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Coronavirus: Cape Fear Valley COVID-19 Town Hall Address Food Processing Spread, Furloughed Workers and more

Cape Fear Valley Health held a live town hall on Tuesday morning on Facebook, Twitter, and WIDU Radio. Cape Fear Valley Health has eight hospitals, one of which is Bladen County Hospital. They also have over 60 health care clinics throughout the southeastern part of North Carolina.

Michael Nagowski, Chief Executive Officer of Cape Fear Valley Health, Dr. Michael Zappa, Chief of Emergency Services at Cape Fear Valley Health, and Dr. Jennifer Green with Cumberland County Health Department were in attendance in the Town Hall at WIDU Radio Station.

“We are very thankful we are not in the same situation as New York. We have been holding steady with the number of COVID positive patients and we are able to isolate and not worry about contaminating the rest of the hospital. The hospital is safe,” Nagowski stated in his opening remarks.

One caller asked why Cape Fear Valley had furloughed workers. Nagowski answered, “We have approximately 750 employees that have been furloughed as we complied with state and federal suggestions to get ready for this pandemic. We actually closed a number of our services to help reduce the opportunity to spread this virus. Well, as we closed those services, our teammates who provided those services were furloughed because there wasn’t any work. All of our clinical teams inside the hospital are operational. We have the capacity to take care of people. The data is clear, we have stabilized this virus unless there is a dramatic change in what we are seeing, we are going to be very well capable of taking care of our community.”

Another caller asked about the meatpacking plants and concerns about the increase in COVID-19 cases due to those workers. Dr. Green answered first with sympathies for those workers and their families affected by the coronavirus.

Dr. Green then stated, “We know that there are ongoing outbreaks at food processing plants across this state. Although there are not any in Cumberland County we are working with those counties who are the lead on those investigations to make sure that employees are being protected, and so if we have cases here in Cumberland County we make sure to link those back to the cases in other counties. There is no evidence from the Food and Drug Administration, from the FDA, or from the USDA of cases of COVID-19 from food processing plants to the food that you eat in your home.”

Dr. Green explained there is nothing in the food supply chain linked back to the spread of COVID-19.

The wife of a poultry processing worker asked the panel for suggestions about social distancing between her husband and her sick mother.

“You’re doing the right thing,” Dr. Zappa said, “If somebody in your house is at risk you have to take extra precautions.”

  • Have a heart to heart talk with your loved ones about taking proper safety precautions and the fear and anxiety that comes with the outbreak.
  • Have clothes that you wear out that you don’t wear in the house.
  • Change clothes.
  • Shower.
  • Monitor temperatures.
  • Stay home from work if you are sick.
  • Wear gloves and masks were necessary.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Wash hands frequently.

Patients needing medical attention unrelated to the COVID-19 outbreak was another topic brought to the panel. Some patients having heart attacks and strokes are not seeking immediate medical assistance, according to Nagowski. He said, “If you are having an emergency, do not delay!” He added, “Please do not delay your health. If you have a chronic condition it will not get better by not seeing your primary care provider.”

Call your health care provider if you need medical attention or if you need immediate medical attention to the Bladen County Hospital emergency room is open.

The residents in Bladen County may be supportive of the local hospital by providing meals, masks, but most importantly practicing safety precautions that will keep us all safe, according to Nagowski. Residents should wash hands frequently, practicing safe distancing, and wearing face coverings when out in public. To make a monetary donation to Bladen County Hospital, follow this link:

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