Approval was granted Monday by the Caswell County Board of Commissioners to approve an ordinance for a six-month extension on the moratorium on polluting industry development in the county. The one-year moratorium was set to expire January 6, 2021, but thanks to COVID-19, the county has been unable to hold meetings in all areas of the county to share information and gather input from the affected communities. Meetings had just begun last year when they had to be halted when the coronavirus was breaking out in Caswell County. 

The ordinance applies to townships that do not have their own county zoning regulations. 

The county has enacted the High Impact Development Ordinance (HIDO), but it does not specifically regulate what uses can be located in a particular area. Caswell County had considered countywide zoning, but elected not to pursue it based on results from the Advisory Referendum.

The six-month extension will expire July 6, 2021.

Caswell County Health Director Jennifer Eastwood informed the board that the current count of positive cases of COVID-19 is 1,214 with 75 active cases in isolation. The death count now up to nine and there are 15 people in the hospital with four of them in critical condition, two have been critical for some time. The county’s positivity rate is 13.3%.

“We started vaccinating our 1a population last week. Twenty of our frontline healthcare workers were vaccinated at the health department and 16 have been vaccinated at other places, likely through their employers,” she said. “We are a transient population and many of our residents work for hospital systems in other counties and are likely being vaccinated there.”

The state changed its risk-prioritization framework to match the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations. “This means that when we start looking at our 1b group, it is divided into three sections. The first section is our residents who are 75 years old and older. Next we will look at healthcare workers and essential workers who are 50 years and older and then healthcare and frontline workers of any age,” said Eastwood.

The Health Department will be working with local partners to further vaccination efforts. North Village Pharmacy will be helping vaccinate the long-term care facility residents and staff and the 75 and up residents. The Health Department will also be working with the Caswell Senior Center to reach that population. Eastwood said anyone who is in the 1b group should call the Health Department to have their name put on the list.

Eastwood also asked for patience from the public because she said vaccine providers have to be very strategic about how vaccines are scheduled. She pointed that the Moderna vaccine comes in a ten-dose vial. She said once that vial is punctured the vaccine must be given within six hours or the remainder of the doses in the vial have to be disposed of. Therefore, vaccine scheduling will be done in groups of ten. “We do not want to waste any doses when we know so many of our residents want and need them. We need to be good stewards of the vaccine that has been given to our county and we hope people will understand and be patient with us as we schedule clinics.”

After answering Commissioner John Dickerson's question about the number of cases (this is cumulative number), he questioned why there is so little being said about flu cases. She responded that the health department is seeing some cases of flu A and flu B. Eastwood explained that the predictor of the severity of our flu season is watching the flu season in the southern hemisphere. She said these countries were locked down during their flu season and as a result they had almost no flu. Therefore, the US has not had a severe flu season, so far. Eastwood said deaths because of respiratory illness and infections are always among the leading causes of death in Caswell. She said the same guidance that has been given for COVID-19 help to keep other illnesses from spreading as well.

Commissioner Steve Oestricher asked how people should go about getting their name on the list if they wanted to get the vaccine. Eastwood said the Health Department is compiling a list and if anyone wants to be vaccinated, they should call 336-694-4129. She said it is helpful if people have a valid email address, but if they don’t there is a work around. Once people are added to the list, they will receive a health questionnaire via email that they will complete and that will tell them what group they are eligible to be vaccinated with.

Other business

*The final assessment resolution for Shadow Ridge Road was approved. Back on June 15, 2020, the board had received a petition from owners of land abutting the road in the Providence Township, asking the county to finance the local share of the cost of improvements to the road made under supervision of the Department of Transportation. The petition was signed by at least 75% of the owners.

*Approval was granted to make a modification to Rule 32 of the Rules of Procedure for the board.

* The Board of Adjustment was appointed by the Board Monday morning. The following individuals were appointed: Nikki S. Turner, Tim Yarbrough, John Claggett, James Ray Shaffner, and Stephen Barmann.

*Commissioner Nate Hall shared that the discussion on how the school system is handling the pandemic was postponed until the next board meeting due to commissioners not having enough time to review a report sent to them by the school board. He also said that he was disappointed that it was taking such an effort on the board’s part to obtain answers to general questions.

Commissioner Dickerson told the board he had received numerous comments from the public about the substandard Internet service in the county and how it is negatively impacting parents’ struggles to educate their children until they can return to school. He pointed out that lack of socialization is also taking a toll. “When does school plan to open back up?”

Chairman David Owen explained that school board should make that decision at its meeting on January 11. “It's up to the school board. We'll discuss it at the next meeting.”

County Manager’s Report

*During his comments to the board, County Manger Bryan Miller passed on the news that the ZOOM Room at the Historic Courthouse is being finalized on Wednesday with staff training to be conducted Friday. There have been some issues with the Internet, but that is being worked on this week.

*Miller also shared that the Caswell Senior Center is being inundated with applications from seniors for payment assistance. The Caswell Fund has received a total of $30,000 in total funding thanks to a $4,000 donation from Duke Energy, $6,000 of CARES Act money, and a more recent allocation of CARES Act funding $20,000 from the county.

*A strategic engagement plan to potentially redesign Town Square is being prepared. It is expected to be ready in the next two months.

*Now that HIDO has been passed and the EIO repealed, a number of permits will be addressed this week.

*Spending for the CARES Act money has been extended to December 31, 2021.