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COVID-19 vaccinations underway in Cumberland County

02 Jan 8 Vaccinations2The Cumberland County Department of Public Health formally moved into Phase 1b, Group 1 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan on Jan. 8 administering the coronavirus vaccine to anyone 75 years of age and older, regardless of health conditions.

More than 500 people received the vaccine at the clinic held at the Crown Complex. Within the first three hours, 200 vaccines were given to individuals in Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Group 1. Individuals who received their first dose of the vaccine are eligible to get their final dose as early as Jan. 29.

“This was our first mass vaccination clinic for the public, and we are pleased that things ran smoothly,” said Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green. “We will continue to fine-tune our operations as we expand our capacity moving forward into the other phases.”

The Health Department has already been vaccinating individuals in Phase 1a in a closed point of distribution center at the facility.

The Health Department coordinated with Cape Fear Valley Health to assist with overflow from the medical center’s limited supply clinic held the
same day.

Among those receiving a vaccination at Cape Fear Valley Health was Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin. Although he is not 75 years old, as a licensed funeral director, Colvin falls within the criteria for front-line workers to receive the vaccine.

He wanted to publicly receive the vaccine, Colvin said, to encourage all residents to receive it when they get the
opportunity.

As a funeral director, Colvin said he has seen first-hand how COVID-19 has affected this community.

“This virus is real, it is to be taken seriously,” Colvin said. “But the light at the end of the tunnel is this vaccine … this vaccine is safe, it’s needed and it’s necessary.”

The next vaccination clinics at the Crown Expo Center for individuals in Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Group 1 are scheduled for Jan. 12, 13, 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, while supplies last.

Individuals who are not part of Phase 1a or Phase 1b, Group 1, are not eligible to be vaccinated at this time. Phase 1a is for health care workers at high risk for exposure and staff and residents at long-term care facilities. Phase 1b, Group 1 is for people 75 years of age or older.

The COVID-19 vaccine is still limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the clinics. No appointments are necessary.

Anyone seeking the vaccine will be screened prior to entering the vaccination area. Vaccinations will be available in a drive-thru setting at the Crown Complex at the West VIP parking lot. A walk-in option will be available at the front of the building.

Visitors should expect long lines and come prepared to wait. Visit the County’s vaccine website https://co.cumberland.nc.us/departments/public-health-group/public-health/covid-19-vaccine for additional instructions.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccination phases on the County’s vaccination page at co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19vaccine or call 910-433-3770.

Cape Fear Valley Health will begin online appointment scheduling for vaccines starting Jan. 13 for its hospital campuses including the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville and Cape Fear Valley hospitals in Hoke and Bladen counties.

Following the prioritization schedule from the NC Department of Health and Human Services, vaccines will go to those in Phases 1b, group 1, as well as continuing vaccinating first and second doses for healthcare workers in Phase 1a.

Individuals in the current phases may schedule an appointment online at www.capefearvalley.com/covid19 by choosing a time block. Time blocks for the Medical Center in Fayetteville will be 7-10 a.m.; 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.; 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Vaccine supply is limited and space is limited for each block.

At the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, the vaccine clinic will continue in the Rehabilitation Center Auditorium.

Individuals should arrive to the building from the corner of Melrose and John Carlisle Lane and look for the “Event Parking” sign for the designated parking lot. Do not arrive more than 30 minutes prior to your scheduled
appointment block.

Visit www.capefearvalley.com/covid19 to schedule an appointment and check for additional COVID-19 updates.

There is also an automated message line, 910-615-9000, which will be updated throughout the vaccine process with the phase currently being vaccinated.

Rapid testing for COVID-19 available locally

01 IMG 7630Dr. Robert A. Clinton Jr. is a Fayetteville physician at Haymount Urgent Care on Owen Drive. He says he has been averaging 800 patients a day since March because he provides free rapid testing for COVID-19.

Until two months ago, his customers lined up in his parking lot. When the overflow started affecting nearby business traffic, Dr. Clinton told Up & Coming Weekly he requested police assistance, but eventually decided to lease a location to better accommodate those interested in being tested.

Since November, 30 of Dr. Clinton’s physician assistants, technicians and other employees have been working at the location of the former K&W cafeteria on Village Drive which was torn down several months ago. Hundreds of cars drive through four lanes for people to receive coronavirus testing. Mondays are the busiest, Dr. Clinton said, because testing is not done on weekends.

“I’ve been spending $30,000 a day to make test kits available which provide immediate results.” He said he has run up a debt of a million dollars, much of which he hopes will be reimbursed.

The tests are free, but many patients have insurance policies. Antigen tests are not only rapid. They are considered the most sensitive for detecting active infections, and the results are highly accurate. Health care providers collect mucus from the nose or throat using specialized swabs. Turnaround time of rapid tests is much quicker than PCR tests. Antigen testing works the same way as molecular PCR testing. But, instead of waiting days for the results, antigen rapid tests produce results in an hour or less, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Clinton says he has worked out an arrangement with a lab in Raleigh to speed up PCR testing so those results can also be available the same day.

There are some other free test locations in Cumberland County. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website has a listing of testing places. Some Walmart stores and eight CVS Pharmacies in Cumberland County are providing testing. There are two CVS testing sites in Hope Mills. Appointments are required.

The Cumberland County Department of Public Health announced last week that it is suspending its COVID-19 testing sites until further notice so that the department can scale up vaccination efforts. The department had been conducting free COVID-19 testing twice a week at Manna Church Cliffdale Road campus and Second Missionary Baptist Church.

“There are many other test locations in Cumberland County that are free and are open to the public,” said Cumberland County Public Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green. “The suspension of the testing sites will allow us to shift our staff to vaccination sites.”

The NCDHHS continues free testing sites at Manna Dream Center on Wednesdays and New Life Bible Church on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The department is working to get a vendor through NCDHHS to get three additional testing sites in the county.

Cumberland County currently has more than 20 COVID-19 testing locations. To find one near you, visit co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19. You can also visit the NCDHHS website at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place to find a free testing place near you.

As of Jan. 10, Cumberland County has a total of 14,671 COVID-19 cases and 140 deaths.

The county’s case positivity rate is at 15.4%. The target rate recommended by the World Health Organization is 5%.

Case Prioritization
Because of the rising number of positive tests, case investigations and contact tracing will be prioritized. Most recently reported cases, cases linked to a cluster/outbreak and cases known to be living in a congregate or healthcare setting, including hospitalizations will be prioritized first. All cases of COVID-19 must still be reported to the local health department or the NCDHHS.

The health department will deprioritize cases after 10 days from the date the specimen has been collected.

“The last lab result that comes in will be investigated first,” said Dr. Green. “The goal of prioritization is to maximize COVID-19 prevention success by focusing health department resources on investigating and tracing the close contacts of cases most at risk of large-scale transmission events.”

Case Notifications
NCDHHS issued updated case investigation and contact tracing guidance to help prioritize cases. All residents who have provided a cell phone or email address will receive an automatic text or email message to connect people to follow-up resources and supports.

People receiving a text or email will be directed to a secure website that provides additional information about how to protect themselves and their loved ones, how to get support if needed to safely isolate, and how to contact someone immediately for additional information.

Vaccination Rollout Plan
A tested, safe and effective vaccine will be available to all who want it, the County said, but initial supplies are limited. The health department received more than 3,500 doses of Pfizer and Moderna. Currently, Cumberland County is in Phase 1a of the vaccination plan. This phase vaccinates public health and health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff and residents.

Phase 1b was expected to begin Jan. 11 and will be given in the following order:
•Group 1: Anyone 75 years and older
•Group 2: Health care workers (not vaccinated in Phase 1a) and frontline essential workers 50 years and older (estimated to begin late January)
•Group 3: Health care workers (not vaccinated in Phase 1a) and frontline essential workers (as defined above) of any age (estimated to begin in early February)
Final dates and times are still to be determined. Visit co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19/covid-19-vaccine for the most recent information.

Phase 2 will begin shortly after phase 1b in the following order:
Group 1: Anyone 65-75 years old
Group 2: Anyone aged 16 to 64 years with one or more high-risk medical conditions, as defined by CDC
Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other congregate settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function
Group 4: Essential workers who have not yet been vaccinated in Phase 1b

Staying Updated
Cumberland County urges all to stay updated on the latest information about COVID-19. You can visit the webpage at www.co.cumberland.nc.us//covid19 for a list of COVID-19-related closures and service changes.
The county is also sharing information on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Cape Fear opens additional COVID-19 vaccine clinic

04 cape fear valley med ctrTo broaden access to the COVID-19 vaccine, Cape Fear Valley Health has added an additional vaccine clinic at its Health Pavilion North location within the ExpressCare clinic location at 6387 Ramsey St. Going forward, the clinic will be open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The HPN ExpressCare at this location is temporarily closed due to staff joining the COVID-19 vaccination efforts. ExpressCare at Highsmith Rainey Specialty Hospital will remain open, and an additional provider has been added to the clinic to care for patients seeking walk-in ExpressCare visits. All HPN ExpressCare calls will be forwarded to Highsmith Rainey ExpressCare. The other HPN clinics, including the Cancer Center, physical and occupational therapy, the Health Pavilion North Family Care, laboratory and radiology, as well as the outpatient pharmacy will remain open.

Cape Fear is currently offering vaccinations to healthcare workers and members of the public who are age 65 and older. Appointments may be scheduled for those that live in Cumberland or Bladen County. There is also a limited supply of doses for walk-ins available for individuals who do not live in one of those counties.

On Jan. 26, Hoke Hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic converted to a walk-in only clinic that will allow individuals to stay in their vehicles until their group is called.

Cape Fear’s current vaccination clinic hours (for both employees and the public) are as follows:
-Cape Fear Valley Rehabilitation Center Auditorium: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those who schedule appointments at www.capefearvalley.com/COVID19 will be given priority here, but walk-ins are welcome, as supply allows.
-Cape Fear Valley Health Pavilion North (HPN) at ExpressCare: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
-Bladen County Hospital: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those who schedule appointments at www.capefearvalley.com/COVID19 will be given priority here, but walk-ins are welcome, as our supply allows.
-Hoke Hospital: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Starting Jan. 26, the Hoke clinic will be a walk-in clinic only, which allows individuals to remain in their vehicles until called.

Why law enforcement is essential for the community

11 police investigateMuch of 2020 has been dominated by newsmaking events that have made the year one few people will soon forget.

Unprecedented and stressful circumstances can contribute to spirited debates and uncertainty about the future. Complicated situations can affect people in many ways, but the public may be wise to take some cues on how to navigate challenging situations from the professionals who routinely find themselves confronting adversity.

Law enforcement officers who don the uniform each and every day routinely put others first in the name of public safety.

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, there are now more than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the United States, which is the highest figure ever.

Officers often step up to serve despite the risks associated with working in law enforcement. A total of 1,627 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty over the past 10 years. There were 135 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2019 alone.

Law enforcement personnel serve many important roles in the communities they serve. Here’s a closer look at the integral roles of police and other law enforcement personnel.

-Maintain law and order: The police force is made up of many different departments with the collective goal of maintaining law and order. Traffic police are responsible for enforcing the rules of the road and minimizing the chance of accidents. Other departments canvas the streets ensuring that residents’ civil liberties are not being compromised.

-Save lives: Whether they’re preventing a life-threatening crime or administering emergency medical care at a car accident until an ambulance can arrive, law enforcement officers save lives every day.

-Assist in adverse situations and provide crisis support: Police officers often fill the role of counselor or friend to people who find themselves in difficult situations. An officer can play a part in helping people make better life choices in the future. Training in situational de-escalation also means police officers are capable of defusing difficult situations before they snowball into serious, potentially life-threatening confrontations.

-Investigate crimes: Police are the first people to respond when crimes have been committed. These individuals investigate the situation and find the perpetrator.

-Foster strong communities: Law enforcement officers share a unique solidarity with other officers, peers, community leaders, and even medical professionals, which helps to create a strong fabric for a community. Officers frequently have each other’s backs as well as the respect and support of the public for putting their lives on the line.

Law enforcement is an essential component of orderly, safe and supportive communities. Recognizing and respecting the important role law enforcement officials play is a great way to show them how much their efforts and sacrifices are appreciated.

FTCC offers update on student loan repayment amid COVID-19

09 Cares ActThe FTCC Financial Aid Department has important news for student loan borrowers. Our office is committed to providing financial literacy and student loan repayment information to our students and the community.

Student loan repayment relief began on March 20 when the Secretary of Education announced that all federal student loans should have a 0% interest rate for the following 60 days, that collections activity on defaulted loans should cease, and that monthly payments on loans should not be required.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which was enacted on March 27, extended these student loan assistance provisions from March 13 to Sept. 30.
Currently, these three relief benefits are scheduled to end on Dec. 31 after they were extended by President Donald Trump on Aug. 8.

Student loan borrowers may receive another extension on these relief provisions, but they should be prepared to resume payments in January 2021, as the COVID-19 forbearance will expire at the end of 2020, as of the time of the writing of this article.

What do these relief provisions mean for borrowers? While monthly payments have not been required and interest has not accrued on federal student loans, borrowers are still able to make voluntary payments. This time period is a wonderful opportunity to reduce the principle owed on student loans. If a borrower is participating in an income-based repayment plan and working toward making the number of requirement payments for student loan forgiveness, the suspended payments are included in the total payments needed. This benefit from the CARES Act enables borrowers to continue to make progress toward loan forgiveness during the time of payment suspension.

Those borrowers who should have renewed their income information for an income-based repayment plan between March 13 and Dec. 31 will not be required to recertify income information during this timeframe and will receive correspondence from their servicer about income recertification at some point after the COVID-19 forbearance has ended.

For borrowers with defaulted student loans in collections, this has been a time of relief from collections activity. However, if the student loan repayment provisions expire, collections activity will resume.

Borrowers with defaulted federal student loans should reach out to their guarantor or the Department of Education’s Default Resolution Group at 1-800-621-3115 in order to begin student loan rehabilitation to bring the loans back into good standing.

As a reminder, the Department of Education and federal student loan servicers will never charge a fee for repayment counseling or to receive these relief benefits from the CARES Act. Any organization that attempts to offer loan repayment assistance for a fee is likely to be promoting a scam. Please reach out to your federal student loan servicer for free assistance.

If you are unsure of the name of your federal loan servicer or how to contact them, visit https://studentaid.gov and log in to view your repayment information. FTCC reminds you to be an informed borrower and make the most of the student loan repayment relief during this challenging time.

Spring classes begin on Jan. 11. Start the new year moving forward and remaining connected to something positive — Fayetteville Technical Community College.

 

 

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