March 23, I interviewed Wilkes County native Aimee Call via FaceTime for an article for the newspaper. Aimee had just returned to North Carolina from Florence, Italy, after spending six months as dean of students at Instituto Lorenzo de’ Medicii.

Aimee related the daily struggles Italians were facing due to the coronavirus-sheltering in place, food shortages, wearing masks to go out, limited access to stores and fines for refusing to abide by social distancing.

And here we are, two weeks later, facing the same situation. March 27, Governor Roy Cooper announced a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order for North Carolina to restrict movement and flatten the curve to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which went into effect March 30 at 5 p.m.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended citizens wear masks and gloves if going to stores for “essential” items such as groceries or medicine. Then, the Towns of North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro both signed further orders which limit the number of people shopping in stores to one per family and require shoppers to maintain the social distancing recommendation of six feet at all times.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday he is doubling from $500 to $1,000 the maximum fine for violating social distancing rules.

Every day brings new suggestions for curbing the spread of the virus. Take off all rings unless they are being cleaned every day. The coronavirus can live underneath rings, even through hand washing. Taking off bracelets is a good idea too.

Non-perishable groceries should be left outside for 24 hours before being put up in cabinets. Perishable items such as milk or cheese should be wiped off or sprayed with cleaner.

Packages arriving through the mail should be opened with gloves and the gloves thrown away. To aid in the effectiveness of homemade masks, place folded paper towels inside.

And now, with a tiger at the Bronx Zoo testing positive for the coronavirus, worries abound for pets. Although it was previously thought the virus couldn’t be spread from human to animal, the CDC currently suggests staying away from pets if showing symptoms of the virus.

Wilkes County response

The Health Foundation organized a drive for personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies last Saturday. Heather Murphy, executive director, said she was “very encouraged” by the response.  Two, 8’ tables were filled with supplies she said, including masks, gloves, gowns and cleaning supplies. All types of masks were donated, including homemade ones and a few N95 masks.

There are shortages in Wilkes, Murphy said, not just at the hospital but also at the area long-term care facilities and the Wilkes Dental Clinic, which is open for emergencies only. The supplies collected went to the Wilkes County Health Department, which will distribute them.

Foothills Free Medical Clinic will not operate Saturday, partly because of a shortage of PPEs. The clinic couldn’t come up with enough masks for patients.

Anyone still wishing to donate should contact holly@healthywilkes.org. Masks, pre-packaged hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies are still needed, Murphy said.

Samaritan’s Purse sent a response team to New York City March 28. A 68-bed emergency field hospital has been set up in Central Park, specifically designed as a respiratory care unit.

Four Samaritan’s Purse tractor-trailers went from North Carolina with the needed equipment. Within 48 hours of arriving, the hospital was operational.

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