COVID-19 forces Cumberland County cooling centers to remain closed as temperatures rise

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Scorching temperatures remain across the Sandhills as Fayetteville's heat advisory continues.

The big question is how to keep cool when cooling centers are closed due to COVID-19.

The obstacles Cumberland County officials face during the heat are either opening the doors to cooling centers and risking the spread of COVID-19 or keeping the doors closed, which could potentially put those most vulnerable at risk.

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In Cumberland County, the pandemic has forced libraries and DSS buildings that typically act as cool stations to remain closed. That includes the Salvation Army shelter in Fayetteville.

"They are having to be still and stay in the shade during the day. During the evening, that's when they move," said Major Tim Grider of the Salvation Army of the Sandhills Region.

Monday is the fourth day the heat index has surpassed 100 degrees in the Sandhills. Since Friday, Grider and his staff have provided hand washing stations and ice cold water to those in need.

"The ice melts quickly, but ice and water is what we have. We keep it contained. They come and serve themselves. We aren't allowed to touch. We have to go and they are able to take the cups with them which keeps that contact minimal," said Grider.

According to Grider, the cooling center accepted as many clients as it could pre-pandemic.

Cumberland County officials are urging the public to stay hydrated and in shaded areas if you have to be outside. Those who work out in the elements said they are doing their best to stay safe as extreme heat poses a serious threat.

"You've got to take breaks and stay hydrated because you'll come out and have a heat stroke out here. I mean, it's deadly," said contractor Chris Pierce.

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