Stay Home, Avoid Crowds, And Wash Hands: Officials Offer Advice During Call-In Town Hall

Mar 18, 2020

Credit Alissa Eckert, MS / CDC

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker hosted a call-in town hall Tuesday evening for people to pose questions about the spread of coronavirus. The North Carolina Republican praised the work Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and his administration have done confronting the outbreak.

Earlier Tuesday, Governor Cooper had ordered all bars and restaurants to stop serving dine-in customers. The clear message from public health officials has been to maximize social distancing -- staying home as much as possible and avoiding crowds.

"That's all part of flattening the curve and slowing down the spread of the virus so that not as many people catch it at one time and we don't overwhelm our health care resources," said State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry, who also participated in the town hall.

Sprayberry joined the call and told one questioner that there is a shortage of proper protective equipment used by health care and emergency personnel who deal with cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

"But we are managing to fill the requests without big gaps for health care workers and first responders, although for some law enforcement folks we'll give them a smaller amount than they requested but with instructions on how to make it last longer," he said.

State officials are taking an inventory of available hospital beds across North Carolina to be ready for an expected rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, Sprayberry said.

Epidemiologist and Wake Forest Baptist Health Chief Medical Officer Erik Summers was also on the call.

Summers explained that respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing are the most common form of transmission. He described the pathogen as a "heavy virus"--meaning it doesn't spray far, which is why maintaining a safe distance of six feet between people is important. And, he added, obsessively washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water is important.

"We typically wash the palms of the hands but don't forget about the back, the thumb, in between, so this is a little bit deeper washing," Summers said.

Coronavirus can also be picked up from surfaces, so Summers said such areas should be wiped down frequently with a disinfectant. And he encouraged people to make sure they get enough sleep, reduce stress and not try not to panic.

Sprayberry added there's a social media campaign underway to reach the younger population, who may not be as concern about the virus but are still capable of passing on it on to others.