Following the announcement of Harrison county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, Marshall grocers and supply stores, along with community officials, are reassuring residents there is no need to panic.
Harrison County Judge Chad Sims confirmed the county’s first resident to test positive for COVID-19, the virus that has turned into a global pandemic in the past few weeks. Later that day, Wiley College President Herman Felton Jr. notified faculty and staff at the Marshall university that one of their faculty members had contracted the coronavirus.
Harrison County Health Authority Dr. Ricky Paul said Friday the virus was contracted during travel and not a result of community spread.
He said the risk to Harrison County residents remains low and encouraged residents to follow the specified recommendations to keep the risk low, such as following shelter in place orders, social distancing when in public areas and to practice frequent hand washing.
Felton and Marshall grocery store managers also joined in to reassure residents on Saturday following Thursday’s confirmation.
Marshall grocers responsible for supplying Harrison county residents also responded on Saturday saying while some shelves of certain items, namely antibacterial wipes, toilet paper, thermometers and cleaning supplies, might be low or empty right now, do not fear, new inventory is on its way.
“Customer traffic was heavy a couple of weeks ago when this all started but I think it is getting back to normal now,” Kroger Store Director Krystin Fisher said Saturday. “We have supply trucks coming in several times a week. As soon as things get into our warehouse, they are getting them out as fast as possible to our shelves.”
While Fisher wouldn’t say if the store was currently low or out of certain items, nearby Super 1 Foods grocery manager, who chose not to be identified, said the store is currently out of thermometers, antibacterial cleaning wipes and toilet paper products but a truck was expected at any time Saturday.
“We are limiting certain essential items to one package per household, just to allow everyone a chance to get some,” she said. “But our trucks are coming in on schedule every week so we will continue to restock items as we get them in.”
Some of the stores have altered their hours to allow for extra cleaning of their facilities and to stock product each night.
“We are doing continuous cleaning 24 hours a day,” Fisher said. “Cleaning is a very high priority and we continue to clean even as we stock products.”
Kroger offers a special shopping time for seniors aged 60 years old and up and for special needs or handicap clients, from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Walmart’s senior shopping time is at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Super 1 Foods recommends its seniors and handicap shoppers visit from 8 to 9 a.m. any day.
Felton also had some words of reassurance on Saturday in an article he released on the university’s website entitled, “Leading with Faith During a Global Crisis,” which details his step by step decision making process in being the first higher education institution in East Texas to close its campus and send students home following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Felton detailed the actions the university took in ensuring students’ safety and assisting them in their journey from campus to home where they are now learning through online instruction.
Felton reflected on his early decision to send students home ahead of the county’s first case of the virus and discussed how forging ahead in his faith rather than giving in to fear is how he will continue.
“The inevitable happened,” Felton wrote Saturday in response to the county’s first COVID-19 confirmation. “One of our beloved team members has been diagnosed with the first case of COVID-19 here in Harrison County. I cannot imagine the grief I would be facing as I pen this letter had I not made what I thought to be a prudent decision. Emphatically, I assert this truth — my faith grappled with my fear and won. As I continue this privilege of leading, the omnipresent certainty for me is to remember that lesson. I could not have afforded to let fear win then, nor will I ever have that luxury.”
Felton said while the Wiley and Harrison County community are saddened to hear of the first confirmation of the virus, he will continue to trust in God to see us through.
“It is devastating to know that one of our members has been infected with this virus and we pray for the family,” Felton wrote. “We do find a silver lining and reflect upon the rocky and turbulent uncertainty surrounding our decision to act aggressively to save our students from this global pandemic. As it turns out we trusted God and he saw us through.”