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COVID-19 exposures spreading governments in Onslow County thin

Coronavirus exposures have quarantined six Jacksonville firefighters, and a positive test by an employee closed the Jacksonville Driver’s License office.
Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 7:55 PM EST
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ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The coronavirus pandemic is reaching deep into the halls of the Onslow County government.

COVID-19 exposures have hindered multiple departments in the county, forcing employees to spread themselves thin.

“Many of the guidelines and many of the steps that we’ve taken are, in the end, to protect our healthcare infrastructure,” said Assistant Onslow County Manager Sheri Slater.

A positive test from an employee in Swansboro sent six other employees into quarantine Wednesday, just after the town closed its doors to the public Monday evening.

“All six were required to go get tested. Three of them, so far, have come back negative and we’re waiting on the other three results,” said Swansboro Mayor John Davis, “For right now, this is becoming the norm and living in that abundance of caution.”

The Jacksonville Driver’s License office also closed Wednesday “until further notice” because of an employee who tested positive.

Four additional firefighters in the city of Jacksonville are in quarantine, on top of the shift of fire officers who went into quarantine last week because of an exposure to coronavirus. Ten of those officers have been released, but two remain in isolation.

“Pretty much all of the nurses are spending some part of their day, whether they’re in communicable disease or not, working through the pandemic,” said Slater.

Slater said the health department has had to bring in outside help from the state because of multiple exposures.

Earlier this week, the Onslow County School Board postponed its swearing-in ceremony for newly-elected members because of “multiple individuals involved” who had been exposed to the virus.

Onslow Memorial Hospital’s COVID patients have nearly doubled.

“ICU would be a trigger point,” said Hospital CEO Penney Burlingame Deal when asked when the county’s numbers could be a concern, “If we have reached capacity, whether it’s COVID patients or other patients.”

Burlingame Deal added they are very able to care for their patients now but are keeping their eyes on their ICU capacity to potentially hit the switch on increasing their bed capacity.

The hospital’s ICU capacity was at four as of Wednesday morning, according to Burlingame Deal.

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