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Polk cares

County embarks on awareness campaign

 

“Polk Cares” is an initiative that could not only keep Polk County businesses and the community moving towards a safer recovery during Covid, but it could save lives.

The initiative encourages everyone to wear face coverings when near each other, keep their physical distance — 6 feet — from each other, wash their hands properly and often, and stay home as much as possible. It’s not a law or guideline or mandate: It is simply a catchy two-word message — a slogan or catchphrase — that sends the message that the citizens of Polk County care enough about each other to do all they can to stop the spread of this deadly virus.

“The initiative is meant to remind everyone about the importance of coming together to protect each other,” the county’s Health and Human Services Director Josh Kennedy said. “We are reaching out to anyone who is living in our community or visiting. It is our hope this effort will keep transmission levels low and help to keep our businesses, residents, and visitors safe. Face coverings help reduce the spread of droplets that can carry the Covid virus. Everyone should wear a face covering — unless you have a medical reason or are unable to remove the face covering yourself — because you can be asymptomatic — not have any symptoms — and still spread the virus days before symptoms appear.”

The most recent official reporting by the county on Dec. 4 reflects a 5.4% positivity rate. Some states, such as South Dakota (47%) and Wyoming (43.2%), are reporting close to 50% positivity rates. Stats released by the State of North Carolina on Nov. 23 rank Columbus County as having the state’s highest rate of 18.1%, putting it clearly in the “critical red zone.”

Unfortunately, the State of North Carolina has a rate of 9.5% as of Nov. 30 and is trending upward. So far, Polk County has tested 11,1467 people. There have been 504 positive cases, 38 hospitalizations and 13 deaths. The age group hardest hit is 25 to 49-year-olds.

Although numbers give us a statistical gauge by which to compare the bad against the worst, they change daily and never tell the whole story. “So far for this week Polk County is now experiencing an increase in cases of Covid, and it is extremely important to look around our region and the rapid increases elsewhere,” Kennedy said. “This increase is not related to Thanksgiving gatherings but is likely related to the national surge that was observed prior to the holiday. We are extremely concerned about the next several weeks, particular if people were attending gatherings for Thanksgiving. These increases in cases across the state place an additional strain on community resources and businesses due to staff shortages. Given the level of transmission in the community, we encourage community members to avoid gatherings for the next several weeks to help reduce the strain on community resources.”

Polk County government is currently monitoring several outbreaks at long-term care facilities, significant community-wide transmission and an increase in the positivity rate regionally. While counties around Polk County may have more cases or a higher positivity rate, it is important to point out that the virus does not recognize geopolitical boundaries. It relies on people to interact, and when people move from community to community for work, pleasure, or commerce, they provide an opportunity for the virus to spread. It is extremely important for community members to maintain vigilance regarding social distance and face covering no matter where they are.

“Our goal is simply to increase the use of masks and to promote the compassionate care that is and always has been in Polk County,” Kennedy said. “Face coverings are a proven means to reduce the spread of Covid and we expect this initiative will lead to a reduction in new Covid cases.”

At its core the “Polk Cares” campaign promotes awareness of the problem and awareness of how we can deal with it. To that end, the county is now launching an awareness campaign: “You can repost our social media image of the logo, post a flyer on the door to your business, plant a yard sign with the logo or simply tell your friends about the importance wearing your face covering, washing your hands and physically distancing from others,” Kennedy said.

 “We are promoting this effort through social media, posters on windows, and mini-networks,” he continued. “We expect this effort will be needed for the next several months or until we have a good saturation rate of the Covid vaccine.” Many of the awareness efforts will be channeled through the county’s schools. “Schools are often a microcosm of their communities,” he added.

“We wear and do a number of things to help protect ourselves or others,” Kennedy said. “We wear seatbelts to protect ourselves from our own actions or someone else’s actions. The introduction of seatbelts was controversial when it was initiated. However, it is hard to argue with the outcome of this effort with the millions of lives that have been saved since its introduction. We follow speed limits, we use smoke detectors, we use tamper devices for our food items, etc. all meant to keep us healthy. Face coverings are no less significant and lifesaving. We are confirming that you have the ability to save lives simply by wearing a face covering. You have the ability to save someone’s grandfather, child, or friend… help support the effort and be a life saver.”

 

Submitted by Steve Wong