Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect actions taken by Bethel Hill Charter School in response to the coronavirus.
It’s probably an issue of when, not if.
That’s the expectation of Person County Health Director Janet Clayton when asked whether the county can keep its coronavirus track record clean.
“I think it’s a matter of when it will hit home, not if,” Clayton said. “I just think there’s no way to know when that will happen.”
Clayton said the transient nature of Person County and its residents means people will be moving in and out of counties where the virus has been found.
“We have borders that are open and I feel like it’s inevitable that we will have a case here,” Clayton said.
As of Friday, Person County still has not seen any cases of the coronavirus or COVID-19, the illness that is caused by the coronavirus.
However, two adjoining counties – Orange and Granville – reported their first cases on Friday. Orange County reported four confirmed cases of the virus, while Granville County also reported its first case Friday afternoon.
While the illness hasn’t yet reached Person County, its ill effects have been felt in nearly every walk of life.
Church services have been canceled, schools remain closed and restaurants have been restricted to filling only takeout and delivery orders. Other businesses have closed their doors or reduced their hours to avoid exposure and to save costs.
While there has not been a case of the coronavirus to treat in Person County, the Emergency Operations Center remains open and meetings between the health department and other emergency services continue. Health department officials have also
School officials are focused on feeding students and making sure parents have resources at home to continue educating children despite the loss of class time. Person County Schools, on Wednesday, began serving meals to every child under 18, regardless of what school they attend. Pick up sites were established at both schools and school system employees ushered drivers through the lines, stopping long enough to reach out the window for a bag of styrofoam boxes.
On Friday, parents of children in the Backpack Pals program were able to go to their children’s schools and pick up backpack filled with food for the weekend.
Nikole Schukraft, Person County’s School Nutrition Director, said she was able to visit the lunch sites and the process was working well. “From what I’ve seen everyone was very grateful. We’ve had a couple of phone calls from people thanking us for doing this and we’ve even had some parents volunteer to help hand out the meals,” Schukraft said.
The school system, however, has not needed any volunteer manpower so far, managing to hand out more than 1,000 meals in the first two days of the effort, using cafeteria staff from across the county.
“My staff is doing great. I am beyond proud of them,” Schukraft said.
Person County Schools remains closed, but have provided instructional resources on its website. The county’s two charter schools are starting to turn toward distance education to help students keep up with their lessons.
In a letter home to parents, Roxboro Community School managing executive director Dave Ebert said students could expect to begin receiving assignments by email or through student sites like Canvas and Google Classroom beginning Monday. Teachers will keep virtual office hours, during which students can reach them with questions. At Bethel Hill Charter School, learning packets were emailed to parents on Wednesday and families were asked to complete a technology survey to allow school officials to begin preparing for the possibility of distance learning.
The United Way of North Carolina, including the Person County chapter, has activated its 2-1-1 system, which is designed to give residents general information about resources and where to get help if it’s needed.
“During times like this with the COVID 19 crisis, the needs of all North Carolinians will increase,” said Person County United Way Director Kelly Foti.
If anything good has come from the coronavirus scare, it is that fuel prices have dropped significantly. As of Friday, the cost of a gallon of gasoline had dropped to $1.90.
“At the root of 100 percent of the drop is the coronavirus hit,” said Pat DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis for Gas Buddy, a company that keeps track of energy news and fuel costs around the country.
DeHaan said shrinking demand was caused by reduced travel as people tried to avoid exposure.
“People just don’t have any where to go. Schools are closed. Restaurants and bars are closed in a lot of states,” Dehaan.
Gas prices are at their lowest levels since 2002, but DeHaan said motorists shouldn’t look for them to stay that low.
“Once this is behind us, prices will go back up, but there will be a permanent impact. We are not going to see summer gas prices as high as we had expected them even two months ago,” DeHaan said.