Charles City forum on COVID-19 addresses difficulties, adjustments to deal with pandemic
Several Charles City leaders from a variety of organizations gathered together on Aug. 27 for a roundtable discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel focused on how people were dealing with problems related to the pandemic and also received information to address mental health.
Charles City of Director of Fire and EMS James Johnson opened up the dialogue by telling those in attendance that the county had just over 60 cases related to COVID-19. Unfortunately, five of those cases resulted in deaths.
Despite those numbers, the message was to bring a sense of togetherness. Mental health expert Denise Flournoy commented about support each other during the crisis.
“We did really try to continue and support the individuals here,” she said. “We definitely had to rework the system and there have been challenges, especially with those who had disabilities.”
Flournoy added that the challenges of telecommunicating to the county is difficult due to the lack of Internet service. For Pastor Danny Tucker of Parrish Hill Baptist Church, he continued to urge residents to take precautions.
“Let us continue to wear masks and not take safety for granted,” he said. “When we had exposure to the flu, we knew we were sick and went home to get plenty of rest.
“But with COVID-19, many of us who have it continue to go about our business and continue to be contagious,” Tucker added. “It’s important that we maintain a love for one another and a respect for health and safety.”
Charles City Superintendent of Schools Dalphine Joppy chimed in about the difficulties the educational system is facing as they transition into an all-virtual learning environment for the first nine weeks.
“It was March 13 that was a pivotal day across our state when educators and students were told that we were going to shelter in place,” she commented. “I don’t care where you were, what city or county it was, leadership teams in school divisions everywhere were coming together and thinking about how we were going to approach teaching and learning in a different way.
“Those school divisions that already put their toe in the water were already ahead of the game,” Joppy continued. “But other divisions that hadn’t got that technology in the hands of all their students at that time quickly started ordering devices.
“In counties, there were broadband issues and divisions were ordering hotspots,” she added as she wrapped up her comments. “It was not just our students, but our teachers who discovered they had challenges connecting to the Internet.”
Charles City Fire Department Captain George Bridges provided safety strategies being implemented by emergency services during this time.
“Social distancing does not really fit in as we still have to go into people’s houses,” he said. “We still have to come into close contact with them and still have to deliver the services that they need.
“The problem we ran into is when the CDC provided us recommendations and what we need, we were promised that ‘A, B, and C’ would go to help us order a box and we can’t get them in that order,” Bridges continued. “We can’t get the facemasks that we need, we can’t get the sanitizer that we need, and we can’t get the gloves that we need because everyone in the country was ordering the same products.
“We had to constantly face patients we come into contact with and go home to our families,” he said as he wrapped up his comments. “Everything that we come in contact with could be taken back to our homes and that’s another layer that’s always in the back of our minds.”
For rising Charles City High School senior Alexis Williams, she provided aspects of balancing her education and home life.
“Schoolwork was a challenge then and learning how to stay focused at home with distractions were difficult,” she said. “We went from going places with my friends and family to being with our parents all the time. Now, I have to be conscious of where I’m going and anyone I come in contact with because when I come back home, I do not want to bring the virus back home.”
Charles City County Administrator Michelle Johnson concluded the dialogue by providing encouraging words of how the county is moving forward and addressing the pandemic.
“When you look around the table, this is a clear depiction of where Charles City is moving towards,” she said. “We have people of all different backgrounds from different entities coming together to move the county forward. Our them as the board of supervisors’ administration is that we are focusing on is that we all win when we work together.