Kiwanis hears Covid-19 updates from local health officials

Published 12:02 pm Monday, April 20, 2020

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Michelle Fortune and Joshua Kennedy present at meeting


Members and guests joined Kiwanis’ April 15 Zoom meeting to hear updates on Covid-19 from Michelle Fortune of St. Luke’s Hospital and Joshua Kennedy, Director of Polk County Health and Human Services Agency.

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Many thanks to our presenters for taking time from their demanding schedules to share about ongoing Covid-19 efforts, current status and next steps. Highlights from Michelle Fortune’s presentation included the following:

  • The hospital has for many weeks been involved in a steady stream of meetings with local and state committees, agencies and work groups. Communication and collaboration among government entities and healthcare organizations has been non-stop in this ever-changing pandemic environment.
  • A major challenge for the hospital has been a dramatic decrease in revenues due to cancellation of non-emergency surgeries and elective procedures. St. Luke’s Enterprise wide has experienced revenue decrease due to procedural cancellations of over $1 million per month; leadership has worked hard to reduce expenses in an attempt to offset this as much as possible. When the economy opens back up, it will be critical to the survival of the hospital for the community to choose St. Luke’s whenever possible for their healthcare needs.
  • With current low census, the hospital has had to call off unneeded workers, which is creating economic hardships for many teammates.
  • The hospital is pursuing multiple sources of potential additional funding: a Federal CARES grant of $800,000 was received Friday and the hospital has applied for Paycheck Protection funds
  • St. Luke’s is prepared to receive COVID-19 patients.  They have completed many simulations, have well-trained staff, the necessary PPE and ventilator resources.

Highlights from Joshua Kennedy’s presentation included the following:

  • The County has moved from Phase I Planning to Phase II Response and is now looking at Phase III Recovery
  • There has been a massive amount of coordination and communication among resources within Polk County and between Polk County and State agencies.
  • A primary challenge has been the management of scarce resources. As we move forward, we need significantly more testing, extending beyond current CDC testing priority guidelines, if we are to safely phase into Recovery. Additional testing data would allow us to quarantine individuals and perform contact tracing rather than continuing to quarantine entire communities.
  • The curve seems to be flattening, both nationally and in North Carolina. Polk County currently has nine cases, the last case being reported nearly a week ago.
  • There is effort underway to approach opening the economy through regional collaboration. Since many of our citizens work outside the county and many of those who work in Polk County live outside the county, it’s important that elements of re-opening be coordinated with our neighbors in both North and South Carolina. While there are challenges with coordinating across state lines, a safe lifting of restrictions requires that we all work together.
  • Mask wearing will be an important part of our future. We each need to assume we have the virus and then invest in protecting others by wearing masks when in public.

It is important to use trusted resources when seeking information rather than relying on opinions often found online and various media outlets. Trusted resources include, 2-1-1,, and

  • To receive COVID-19 nixle alerts on your phone, text your zip code to 888777 or to sign up go to

Next week’s Kiwanis Zoom meeting on April 22 will host George Alley. He will provide an update on the pandemic from the perspective of Thermal Belt Outreach. Guests are again welcome to attend this virtual meeting. Contact Andy Millard at for login information.


Submitted by Linda Greensfelder