The Waiting Begins
The Corona Times – March 24, 2020
by David Biddix
As we said at the beginning of The Corona Times, we are trying to document not only the facts and events of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re also seeking perspectives from individuals as they deal with everything going on around them. Today is my turn to share a few thoughts.
I’m a native of Mitchell County and I’ve lived here 52 of my 56 years on Earth. I work at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, North Carolina. I’ve been making the drive from Spruce Pine to 1001 Burkemont Avenue every workday for 7 years and 9 months. Up to now, the trip has uneventful, with all but 8 miles taking place on 4-lane highways that make getting there rapidly rather easy.
Needless to say, Thursday, March 19th was the start of one of the strangest periods in my life. At 2:00 that afternoon, the administration of the college announced that we would convert to teleworking for most employees beginning Friday, March 20. Fortunately for me, the type of work I do (marketing and website development) is something that can be done from home fairly easily. I know others who work with me or in other industries can’t take their work with them very easily.
So, Friday begins the first day teleworking. It’s not unusual to me as I often work on projects from home. It’s a part of my job. But, the start of the next week things begin to get odd. The college announces that the campus is now closing for all but the most essential staff. Restrictions on time spent on campus by those who are allowed to there are implemented.
On Monday afternoon, Mitchell County Government announces that buildings housing county offices are closed to walk-in traffic. That means residents can’t just go to the tax office or register of deeds. They have to make an appointment for a face-to-face meeting, and most transactions will take place online or via telephone. While most things residents need to take care of with county government can easily be done over the phone or online, the fact that you can’t just drive to Bakersville and take care of it without planning when it can happen is a bit unnerving. This is not because of the government…it’s all from how we are having to work in a world with the COVID-19 Virus.
County officials followed that up today with a request that local rental properties, motels, hotels, and inns to not rent their rooms and houses until further notice. This again is in an effort to slow down the spread of virus from hot spots to areas like ours where no cases have turned up. The request was signed by local health and emergency management officials along with the county commission. While this is not a major blow to our economy at this time, it raises the specter of big problems as tourism season gets underway in a few weeks and that does put a lot of money into our economy.
And that brings us to the big news. It is announced that the first cases of COVID-19 have appeared in Burke County (where I work) and McDowell County (which I travel through to and from work and that is directly next to Mitchell County) today. While I don’t know where these cases are located in either county, this means that there is a chance, however small, that I came into contact with the virus as I traveled to and from work and while I was on campus.
So, the waiting begins.
Friends and family have been talking with me about the events surrounding the pandemic. Several feel that Mitchell County’s first COVID-19 case will be announced later this week. But, we have no way to know. The whole situation is becoming very stressful. My family sits hunkered down in our home, waiting to see what happens with an invisible foe which has totally upended our normal routine.
What’s next? That’s the big question.
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About the Numbers
You will note a series of numbers contained in the blog. They document the spread of virus through confirmed cases by the federal Centers for Disease Control and by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. These are the official totals provided by state and local government at the date of the post and do not include estimates or cases not confirmed by these agencies. This is our effort to provide an accurate gauge of confirmed virus spread as it continues during the pandemic.
Cases in North Carolina
Cases in Western North Carolina
Deaths in North Carolina
Cases in the United States
Deaths in the United States