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Coronavirus roundup

GREENSBORO — Maple Grove Health and Rehabilitation Center is the latest Guilford County congregate living site to report coronavirus cases, according to state health officials.

The facility reported 11 cases among residents and none among staff members, according to the latest report from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Guilford County has five ongoing outbreaks at nursing homes, residential-care facilities and other “congregate” living settings.

Piedmont Christian Home, an assisted-living community in High Point, has 25 new cases since Tuesday — 39 total.

Clapp’s Nursing Center in Pleasant Garden has nine new cases since Tuesday for a total of 76, including 15 deaths.

Camden Health and Rehabilitation in western Greensboro has one new case for a total of 47 among residents and staff. Deaths related to the virus remain unchanged at six.

Earlier outbreaks at Rudd Farm and Heritage Greens, a senior-living community have ended.

Guilford courts expand access starting June 1

GREENSBORO — Starting June 1, Guilford County’s courts will expand access to their buildings in Greensboro and High Point as the state slowly reopens in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Superior Court will be handling only guilty pleas, probation violations and pretrial motions at first, officials said.

Jury trials won’t resume until Sept. 1.

Court officials said there will be strict enforcement of social-distancing requirements and other measures to ensure the safety of the public and those who work in the courthouse.

City office hours set to return to normal June 8

GREENSBORO — Public hours at the Melvin Municipal Office Building in downtown will return to normal on June 8, the city of Greensboro said Friday in a news release.

The city’s transition back to its regular hours comes as North Carolina slowly begins reopening from the coronavirus pandemic.

Ceremony spreads virus

THOMASVILLE — A high school graduate potentially exposed multiple students and teachers to COVID-19 on Wednesday hours after being tested for the respiratory disease.

The student — whose identity is unknown — attended an event at Thomasville High School, where graduates were to be filmed in an auditorium receiving their diplomas.

The faculty and staff on stage remained there all day. Everyone had to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and follow social-distancing guidelines, according to Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Cate Gentry.

However, Gentry said she couldn’t say for sure if the student had their face covered the entire time.

The next day, the Davidson County Health Department informed district leaders the student had tested positive for the virus.

After heated debate, Guilford commissioners decide amount for school bonds referendum

GREENSBORO — Guilford County residents likely will be voting on $300 million in school bonds in November, less than a fifth of what school officials had requested to address years of backlogged construction needs.

The county Board of Commissioners decided on that amount Thursday evening after acrimonious debate among several board members.

School personnel, parents and others who addressed the commissioners at the start of the meeting were hoping they would approve the full $1.6 billion that had been sought by the Guilford County Board of Education.

But the commissioners’ Republican majority said that the economic damage the COVID-19 pandemic already has done to the local economy dictated the lesser amount.

They said that if voters approved the $300 million and school leaders handled it properly, they could seek more money in another referendum.

“The sooner we complete these projects, the sooner we could consider a second phase,” said Commissioner Alan Branson, who suggested the lower amount. “I believe that a phased approach is the best course of action.”

Branson said he also was leery of the “one-and-done” approach he described as having been used in the last major school bond initiative years ago, when voters approved a large amount for projects that he said were not completed expeditiously.

Democratic Commissioner Melvin “Skip” Alston lit into Branson, saying that the proposal was an “insult” coming from a fellow commissioner who had detailed knowledge of the school system’s many building needs.

“It’s really an insult for a commissioner that knows all that,” Alston said. “To make a motion for less than 20% of the needs for the schools, it’s insulting and demeaning and shows that he doesn’t give a damn.”

Commissioner Kay Cashion was the lone Democrat to vote with the majority, saying she would have liked to have seen the prevailing side choose a larger amount than $300 million.

But Cashion said she agreed the pandemic had wreaked havoc and left many in no financial condition to see their taxes rise.

“I know many people in business who are really hurting and some of them are not going to make it,” Cashion said.

Thursday’s vote by the commissioners was to direct that county staff apply for bonding authority in the requested amount and to take other administrative steps toward holding a referendum.

The commissioners plan to hold a public hearing on the issue next month, adopt a bond order and formally schedule the November referendum.

In addition to Cashion and Branson, voting for the $300 million in school bonds were Chairman Jeff Phillips and commissioners Justin Conrad, Hank Henning and Alan Perdue.

Alston and commissioners Carolyn Coleman and Carlvena Foster voted against it.

Shortly before that, the board rejected a substitute motion that Foster had proposed to support the full $1.6 billion the school system had requested in a March vote.

“We all know the condition of our schools,” Foster said.

In a separate vote Thursday evening, the commissioners approved a resolution to include an additional 1/4-cent sales tax on the November ballot to help pay for future school construction.

County officials estimate that if approved, the additional sales tax would generate $19 million per year they could pledge to school construction.

In March, the school board voted 7-2 to ask the commissioners to schedule a November referendum seeking voter approval for $1.6 billion in construction bonds to repair, replace and modernize schools throughout the county.

In requesting the $1.6 billion the commissioners rebuffed Thursday evening, school officials had submitted a plan to tackle years of deferred maintenance and other needs for 41 schools.

The commissioners received a report from county staff before their vote Thursday that showed a bond of $700 million would have completed work at 20 schools, many of them elementary schools, while $1 billion would suffice for 27 schools including Grimsley, Smith and Page high schools.

The $1.6 billion list of projects provided by the school board was intended to cover the first two phases of school construction needs identified by local officials and consultants. It envisioned rebuilding, replacing or fully renovating 38 schools and building three new schools.

Cone Health uses UV light, robots to sanitize sites, masks, during pandemic

GREENSBORO — To help protect patients and staff from coronavirus, Cone Health is using ultraviolet light and robots to frequently disinfect facilities.

In a recent test at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, the light from Xenex devices killed COVID-19 viruses in two minutes, according to a news release from Cone Health, which has 10 Xenex machines and five similar Tru-D devices.

“As we move to resuming more surgeries, we are sanitizing areas around the clock,” Joshua Andrews, executive director of environmental services at Cone Health, said Thursday.

Cone Health is also using this technology to disinfect N95 masks, which can go through the process up to five times, according to Doug Allred, spokesman for Cone Health.

The technology works this way: Once staff cleans a room, they send in a machine that will shine an intense form of ultraviolet light. No one can be in the room while the devices are in use.

“The LightStrike robots have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 response with hospitals redeploying their robots and purchasing new robots to lower the environmental risk in ERs, screening zones and critical care areas,” a representative from Xenex said in an email Thursday.

Other health systems across the country are also using the LightStrike robots to disinfect N95 masks to preserve short supplies.

“To make sure that was safe, Xenex sent exposed masks to 3M for testing. We know that the LightStrike robot did not damage those masks after 10 exposures,” the Xenex representative said. “We also wanted to make absolutely certain that the LightStrike robot was effective on the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19), so we tested against the actual virus at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. The Texas Biomed researchers conducted the testing and found the robot was able to achieve a greater than 99.99% reduction in the virus on both glass slides and N95 mask material.”

Cone Health said it has increased the use of ultraviolet machines by nearly 50% during the pandemic by disinfecting all hospital clinic areas, staff lounges, on-call rooms, waiting areas, and public restrooms.

Ultraviolet light has traditionally been used at Moses Cone Day Surgery and after patients are discharged from rooms in which they were treated for highly contagious diseases such as COVID-19.

“Our environmental services staff manually clean and disinfect using the latest techniques and guidance. They cap off their work with a UV robot as an extra layer of safety,” Andrews said. “We want people to be safe coming into a hospital. This is one way we do that.”