From day one the Covid-19 outbreak was clothed in secrecy by county officials. Social media spread rumors like wildfire that it originated in a local “church” group. The more questions that appeared the more it seemed to be covered up by officials. This group (like many others in the country) continued to have services after it was recommended to cease. Then it was announced that our first death due to Covid-19 was a member of this “group”.
Government officials were privately advised to get out in front of this due to community fears but chose not to. They stood hiding behind HIPAA laws and would not reveal areas or statistics concerning the spread of transmission. Meanwhile the rumors and gossip got more and more ugly on social media concerning this “group”. As more transmission was identified the local group’s leader decided to comply with the stay at home order as far as services were concerned. Their last fully attended service appeared to be March 29th.
Meanwhile cases continued to increase in the county. As the social media rumor mill continued to grow a number of people seemed to feel totally safe that if they were not a member of this group they were ok and were not very concerned about social distancing as was seen by Facebook posts of parties and groups getting together.
The county continued to use social media as their way to reach the community concerning Covid-19 but not using mailers or reaching out to areas of people who did not have access to social media platforms. The supposed affected “group” was known to not frequent social media platforms so we were left wondering how these people were being warned about what was in their immediate group?
Why was the group of origin not immediately identified? If it had been the congregation of (for ex.) Florence Baptist Church, would that have been publicly identified so that anyone coming in contact with them or their members would have been on alert for possible exposure? County officials knew how close knit this “group” was within their membership so did they contemplate quarantining the entire group for two weeks to see if they had any symptoms?
I realize that this would possibly be 500+ people but did they (county officials) not understand the virology spread of such an illness within such a closed group? If they did in fact know of the situation within this “group” why did they allow a community food distribution from their members?
Were all employers of the members of the affected group notified that they had a potential exposure situation and to take adequate precautions. By not making the community aware of the potential exposure within the group were contacts not aware that they may have been exposed.
I am aware that persons may be positive with no symptoms but if exposed why was not the entire group tested to see if they were positive? (again requiring a two week quarantine from date of testing) Why was county resources not mobilized to provide support to this group as far as helping them quarantine and providing them with the necessary food and services they would need to stay home as a group?
Had we done this even as early as April 1st we would now be almost 20 days into this. Could it have prevented deaths, hospitalizations, and enormous mistrust in the community? Maybe, but instead cases have continued to rise and mistrust has grown even greater in the community.
This county needs to open up and be transparent with the community it serves. Questions need to be answered. We all know the “group” involved has many lawyers and are not afraid to use them but there is nothing that says you cannot identify a “group” when it concerns a health care emergency.
This is not about freedom of religion, this is not about the practices of a particular group. This is about the health of all our citizens here in Rutherford County. There is no need to have the populace worked up to a “torch and pitchfork” state due to fear and ignorance because of the non-transparency of the County concerning this. This county is full of kind and caring people who would help anyone when called upon. We are primarily a Christian community that does believe in the principle of helping your neighbor.
Why don’t you tell the community what is going on and where? Are you truly believing that your information is so volatile that it cannot be released to the community? How has keeping this information a secret helped contain the spread of the virus?
Answer our questions:
When was patient 1 tested ?
How did patient 1 acquire it? (community acquired or direct contact)
Was patient 1 in close contact with a large group of people in a contained space?
Were all those persons tested and quarantined when patient 1 was confirmed positive?
Were all those persons personally notified by officials of their exposure risk by patient 1 and told to quarantine?
Were the persons quarantined offered assistance in obtaining food, medicines, and health care visits by officials in order to properly quarantine?
How have officials monitored quarantined persons for compliance?
When did our local hospital receive their first case?
When was the first “community acquired” case reported?
How many “community acquired” Covid-19 patients do we have currently?
When you say the four deaths were not connected do you specifically mean they had no contact with each other or belong to the same group or attend the same meetings?
How many people are currently hospitalized and where?
Are home visits being done everyday on home bound positive cases?
When do daily home visits of positive cases cease?
How many people are currently involved in “direct contact” quarantine and how are they monitored?
How many recovered cases do we have?
How many cases do we have connected to “direct contact” verses community acquired?
How many positive cases or direct contact persons work/worked at public essential service jobs in our county?
What was done at these businesses to protect the public?
Were “at risk” (persons involved in a cluster group of contagion) individually notified by authorities of their risk and proper precautions to observe due to fact that social media notification possibly was not available to them.
How many cases in confined retirement/assisted living facilities? If any, identify these facilities.
What Home Health Agency has positive cases? (That is of public concern just as if a restaurant had had a positive hepatitis case.)
Where were the known “out of county clusters” (nursing homes, hospitals, vacation spots, etc…) that exposed local residents?
How are you contacting people for/with information who do not have access to social media platforms?
Statistical data such as the above numbers does not violate anyone’s personal privacy so why do you not release it?
State requirements do not seem to be adequate for protecting our community as far as “essential travel” is concerned. Are there any County plans to further limit access to Walmart, Lowe’s, or grocery stores where large groups of people tend to go multiple times each week?
These are questions that will go a long way to reassure the general public that they are being kept in the loop by government officials. Franklin D. Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” While that is eclipsed by the threat of the virus the fact is that fear is actually hampering people from understanding and being part of the solution to this issue. A big part of that fear is non-transparency from the ones whom we entrust to protect and inform us. We are all surrounded by the problem of Covid-19. All we ask is to be informed so as to be a part of our community solution. Knowledge is power.
*This letter is a personal opinion and does not reflect the position of RC Catalyst in any way.
Editor’s note: The Foothills Health Department with Karen Powell as executive director is governed by its Board of Directors, NOT by the Rutherford County Commissioners.
For further information about Foothills Health District or other community resources and health related data, please call their offices, Rutherford Co. (828) 287-6100, McDowell (828) 652-6811, or visit their website at http://www.foothillshd.org/
*Edited: to credit Franklin D. Roosevelt with quote used above. (Thank-you to our readers who help us keep our information correct and factual. Working together matters!!)