As of the afternoon on Friday, March 13, there were no confirmed cases of the coronavirus or COVID-19 in western North Carolina. But this disease and the concern that it might spread is already having an impact on McDowell County.

The day before, McDowell Technical Community College announced on its Facebook page that the 2020 McDowell Fire, Rescue and EMS College, scheduled for next weekend would be cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation. This event, which has been held for more than 40 years here, draws more than 1,000 students from cities and towns throughout the state and region.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association shut down all spring sports in the entire state, which took effect Friday, March 13 at midnight. The Little Miss McDowell Pageant, originally scheduled for Saturday night, was postponed.

The city of Marion also issued a news release informing residents that all possible measures are being taken to prevent spread of this disease. That includes not renting out city facilities to large groups.

The city of Marion is actively monitoring the status of COVID-19 and working with its department heads to create plans that can be implemented if the coronavirus spreads to our region. As of 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning, no cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in McDowell County. The city is following the state of North Carolina’s guidelines and will not rent the Community Building, the Depot and Municipal Event Center to groups of more than 100 people, according to the news release.

Individuals are encouraged to visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus or call 866-462-3821 to find out the latest information about COVID-19. Citizens are also asked to monitor MarionNC.org for the latest information from the city of Marion, according to the news release.

All over the community, notices are on display urging folks to take special precautions because of coronavirus or COVID-19.

The elderly are especially vulnerable to this disease. The McDowell News contacted representatives from both Rose Hill Retirement Community and Autumn Care of Marion to find out what is being done to protect their residents.

“We always have in place very good infection control measures,” said Tracy Makela, administrator of Rose Hill. “We’ve limited visitors to just immediate family and if the family members are healthy.”

She added Rose Hill has restrooms and hand sanitizers so that people can clean their hands frequently. The entrance doors are locked to prevent just anyone from walking inside.

“We’ve cancelled all outside medical visits for right now,” said Makela.

A nurse practitioner and a physician will visit with the residents at Rose Hill. All outside entertainment and visits from churches and community groups have been cancelled at Rose Hill. Makela said this measure in particular disappoints the residents.

“They so look forward to the church services,” she added.

In addition, the staff at Rose Hill are being told to stay home if they are sick. “We do a lot of hand washing,” she said.

Furthermore, the retirement community is having trouble getting supplies because of hoarding. But the residents of Rose Hill are doing well, according to Makela.

“Our residents are good,” she added.

As for Autumn Care, Todd McKinney, the director of nursing, only said “We’re following all of the CDC’s and the governor’s recommendations.”

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