Wednesday, 07 April 2021 12:40

Richmond County health director to retire

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Richmond County health director to retire RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond County Commissioners held their regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening and the biggest story of the night wasn’t even part of the agenda.  

Following Health Director Tommy Jarrell’s report on COVID-19, Commissioner Don Bryant said, “I hate to see you leave.” 

Jarrell replied, “I hate to leave in many ways.”  

It was confirmed later that Jarrell is in fact retiring.  He told the RO after 30-plus  years in the health profession, his last day on the job will be May 28. 

“Richmond County has been great for me,” Jarrell said. “The commissioners, all the county managers I have worked for have been great to work with and I appreciate the opportunity, but I know your next person, whomever that might be will do a great job as well.  

“There’s a great staff that can run the department when I’m not even there and that’s important, to have a staff you can count on to keep things going,” he continued. “They’re dedicated employees that want to make Richmond County healthier and better to live in.”  

In his COVID-19 update, Jarrell gave a positive report on both the decline in new cases as well as the percentage of Richmond County citizens who have had at least one vaccine shot.  Tuesday’s report included only seven new cases.  

“For about the last three to four weeks we’ve been averaging less than 10 per day,” Jarrell said.   As of Tuesday evening, only two residents were hospitalized, with 70 active cases in the county.  

Regarding the vaccine, Jarrell said 28% of Richmond County has received at least one dose. “We’re not there but we’re making great progress in getting there,” he said. “About a week and a half ago we began receiving the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine so now there are two choices for individuals in the county who want to be vaccinated, either the one- or the two-dose.”  Seventy-four percent of those age 75 and over and 69% of those age 65-74 years have received at least one dose.  In total, 12,134 people in Richmond County have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  

County Manager Bryan Land gave his monthly update, noting the property tax collection rate is currently at 95.6% which is an increase of 1.25% over last month and 1% ahead of where the county was at the end of last March.  

“This was our best March year-to-date percentage on record,” Land said. “We’re still cautiously optimistic and plan on achieving our goal of 97% collection rate due to the hard work and dedication of our collection staff.” 

An Earth Day event is being planned for Saturday, April 24 for roadside cleanup. The event will run from 8-11 a.m. and so far 41 groups with a total of 469 people have signed up to help.  Tedder Trash Solutions has offered its equipment free of charge to pick up the bags once the event is over.  

Following the event, Pastor Gary Richardson of Place of Grace has offered to provide two-three people weekly to assist county crews with pickup focusing on the East Rockingham and Airport Road area.  

“Hopefully this grassroots effort will continue to snowball and other groups and organizations will pitch in long after the Earth Day event is over,” said Land.  

Plans are being finalized for county buildings to reopen on April 12.  During his remarks, Land encouraged residents to continue to utilize drive-thru options where possible. Guidelines are currently being developed and include mask requirements, temperature checks as well as occupancy maximums to allow for proper social distancing.  Plans currently are to open under pre-pandemic hours of operation.  Land noted that adjustments could be made by county officials as needed to ensure safety.  

Richmond County will hold a household hazardous waste and pesticide collection day Saturday April 10, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Richmond County Health Department. The event will take place in the parking lot located at 127 Caroline St. in Rockingham.  

Items that will be accepted include oil- and latex-based paints, aerosols, solvents, degreasers, household cleaners, acids, pool chemicals, alkaline and lead acid batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, light ballasts, propane cylinders, rechargeable batteries, thermostats and metallic mercury.