Special Opinion to the Mirror by Hazel Bland Thomas
I have many relatives and friends who live in Cape Charles and Northampton County, so I have become very concerned about them since I could not determine who is charged with leading the public information campaign regarding the status of Covid-19 in their community. I am curious to know what organization is responsible for providing consistent, science-based information for the residents, some of whom who may not be computer savvy? What organization is principally responsible for keeping residents informed?
I am pleased that there is a very effective telephone tree contact system in Cape Charles and it’s doubly gratifying that there is a coalition of clergy and community residents who are providing food and safety net services for town residents. My core concern, however, is that it’s not obvious who has the official responsibility for providing residents with information on where they can get testing, secure treatment and access tracking services.
Traditional thinking often overlooks information campaigns in rural communities based on the assumption that information will be spread by “word of mouth.” Unfortunately, because residents tend not to live in close proximity with their neighbors, they can easily develop a false sense of security about the need for social distancing. There’s also the false assumption that residents won’t encounter other folks at stores, groceries and even take-out restaurants. Nothing should be taken for granted.
A perusal of the Northampton County Public Health Department website revealed only a link to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and a google definition of the virus, but no mention of a public information program. Similarly, a check with the Eastern Shore Health Care System, Inc. website simply indicated that it is “monitoring the COVID-19 Corona Virus situation in the United States and is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).” They stated that they are committed to educating those in the community about the virus, but there was no indication of how it would be done.
With the hovering threat of a potential Covid-19 outbreak at the Tysons chicken plant in nearby Accomac County and no hospital in Northampton, one can only wonder who the general public should turn to for a consistent, public education? With the possibility of the Governor opening areas of the state to increased commerce, public health, life and death are truly on the line. I hope everyone will remain safe and in good health, yet it has become even more imperative to know now – not later – whose in charge?