Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 6/12/20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information.
Public health officials are rolling out COVID-19 contact tracing programs to help slow the spread of the disease by informing people who have had contact with someone who has tested positive. Of course, scammers are finding nefarious ways to use these efforts for their personal gain. Here’s how the scam works: you receive an unsolicited message via text, email, or a social media messenger. The message explains that you’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The message instructs you to self-isolate and provides a link for more information. Alarmed, you are tempted to click and get more details. But don’t fall for it! These links can contain malware that downloads to your device. Another version of this scam involves a robocall claiming to be part of “contact and tracing efforts.”
Real contact tracers will ask you to confirm your identity, but never for financial information. They will also identify themselves. Contact tracing is typically done by phone call, not text messages or social media. If you receive a link, double check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. Be careful that the link is really what it pretends to be. If the message alleges to come from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov (for the United States) or .ca (for Canada). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.
As recently as early May, NC had surpassed the one million mark for individual unemployment insurance benefit claims, as noted on the N.C. Division of Employment website. Pisgah Legal Services recently launched a targeted campaign to reach people recently unemployed due to COVID-19 who may have also lost their health insurance. Anyone who has experienced a qualifying life event in the past 60 days, including job loss, may qualify for Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance. Right now, they are offering free assistance and free information to help understand options for affordable health insurance. When qualifying for a special enrollment period, people do not have to wait until November for Open Enrollment; they can take advantage of options now. To find out more or to make an appointment, visit pisgahlegal.org/aca or call 828-210-3404.
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge in North Carolina, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, raised the possibility of reinstating a stay-at-home order. She told NPR’s Morning Edition that a rollback of the Phase 2 allowance is possible, but that she hopes it won’t come to that. She said there are other things the state can do before it reaches that point, but that officials are concerned. The main drivers of the recent case upticks seem to be more testing and more people being out and about.
On June 6, North Carolina recorded its highest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases of 1,370. The state exceeded 1,000 virus-related deaths June 8 and hit hospitalizations records as well. As of the morning of June 12, there had been 39,481 cases of COVID-19 in the state with 812 individuals hospitalized.
North Carolina is focused on rapidly increasing testing of people who may not currently have symptoms, but may have been exposed to COVID-19, especially people from historically marginalized populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
The guidance recommends that clinicians conduct or arrange for diagnostic COVID-19 testing for:
To support testing in populations being hit hardest by COVID-19, NCDHHS also has a new resource available, COVID-19 Community Testing in Historically Marginalized Populations: Best Practices Open PDF.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” In the context of COVID-19, OSHA is advising employers to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by taking temperatures, providing personal protective equipment, adding barriers, social distancing, sanitizing surfaces, etc.
So it is possible for employers to get sued if one of their employees contracts COVID-19. However, whether or not an employer would be held liable is a separate question, which depends on where your business is located and whether Congress takes action. Currently, there is no federal COVID-19 liability shield to protect U.S. employers.
Park managers announced that more openings will begin June 13, including bathrooms, although campgrounds and visitor centers remain closed in both state. Popular areas that will open back up include Craggy Gardens, Linville Falls, and Mount Pisgah.