LYNCHBURG — On Wednesday night, just as they were about to go on air to discuss Moore County’s first confirm COVID-19 case, Mayor Bonnie Lewis and EMA Director Jason Deal got a call a about a second exposure. Within minutes, they both rushed to Woodard’s Market & Deli where an employee had just informed owner Missy Woodard of their positive test.
By 6 p.m. Lynchburg’s locally-owned grocery store closed for the first time in its 18 years in business. It now sits empty awaiting a professional cleaning crew from Nashville.
Woodard says the state told her she wasn’t required to close but out of an abundance of caution and to make her customers feel comfortable, she decided it was the right thing to do.
“We immediately started cleaning and disinfecting,” she says. “This crew uses a fog that gets in all the cracks and corners that employees can’t wipe.”
Until now, Woodard’s Market & Deli were already being vigilant about disinfecting. They asked customer to stay six feet apart, when appropriate employees wore masks and gloves, and surfaces were wiped down multiple times each day. On Monday, an employee came in complaining of a low grade fever and was immediately sent home. Later, when that employee learned they were COVID-19 positive, Missy Woodard was one of their first calls.
Mayor Lewis says the Woodard’s employee is not Moore County’s first case. She says she knows this both based on the timing and on the fact that the employee doesn’t live in Moore County. The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) bases county numbers on a patient’s permanent address.
Once TDH confirms a case, their first call is that city’s mayor followed by the EMA director. After that, they launch an extensive investigation.
“The state informed me of our first case on Tuesday and the Woodard’s employee didn’t notify Missy until Wednesday afternoon,” Mayor Lewis said. “When they call to tell me there’s a positive case, they don’t tell me who it is … I do not know.”
It’s a HIPPA violation, to identify a confirmed COVID-19 case by name. Instead the state uses the 911 CAD system to balance the need for anonymity and desire to protect first responders. It tracks cases by linking them to 911 addresses. If there’s been a confirmed case linked to that address, EMS are notified before they arrive.
EMA Director Jason Deal says now that there’s a confirmed case in Lynchburg, protocols will change.
“Instead of just rushing in,” he said Wednesday during a public address, “we’ll be much more methodical.”
Deal says that a single first responders will go in to triage the situation before exposing others. He also stresses that not every Coronavirus-related case will automatically transport to a local ER.
“Many patients can stay in their own homes under the care of their personal doctor,” Deal said.
Mayor Lewis said the TDH investigations of COVID-19 contact impressed her.
“They aren’t messing around,” she said. “Confirmed cases make an exhaustive list of everyone they’ve been around and then the state calls those people to check in every day for 14 days.”
Woodard says that now that there’s been an exposure, they’ll be escalating steps to keep both employees and customers safe.
“When we open back up on Friday, we’ll start taking every employees temperature when they arrive at work and all employees will be required to wear masks,” Woodard says. “We’re also going to be limiting the number of customers that can be in the store at one time.”
Both EMA Director Deal and Mayor Lewis praised Woodard’s Market for their quick response and strict adherence to CDC guidelines.
“They’ll be doing exactly what EMS would do to clean an ambulance after an exposure,” Deal said .
For anyone anxious about exposure, the state will offer free drive thru testing this weekend in both Bedford and Coffee counties. •