Poll: Voters Unhappy With N.C. DHHS

CHAPEL HILL – In the wake of mounting controversies, fifty percent of voters disapprove of the job that the N.C. Department of Heath and Human Services is doing, according to a new poll.

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh reports that virtually the same percentage disapprove within the different parties, with 51 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of Republicans, and 50 percent of independents who are unhappy with the DHHS.

“There have been a lot of calls for Pat McCrory to fire DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, but we found that most voters do not have an opinion about firing her one way or the other,” Jensen says.

Of the voters polled who do have an opinion about Wos, Jensen says that 38 percent think she should be replaced compared to only 14 percent who think North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory should keep her.

Matters of controversy swirling around the DHHS involve high salaries for certain employees, the hiring of politically connected aides, and most recently, a breach of security involving Medicaid data.

A higher number of Republicans than Democrats polled think that Wos should be fired.

“I think that is a product of the fact that Republican voters can see that Wos is really hurting the McCrory Administration’s image.”

The Medicaid card breach affected more than 49,000 patients in North Carolina.

DHHS mistakenly sent the Medicaid cards of children to the wrong recipients. The agency determined that the erroneous mailing was because of human error in quality assurance and computer programming.


Norovirus Outbreaks Flare Up Across NC, But Not Orange County

ORANGE COUNTY – Officials from the Orange County Health Department say that a Norovirus outbreak has not moved into our area, though outbreaks have flared up across the state.

Pam McCall, Personal Health Services Director for the Orange County Health Department, explains that Norovirus is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness which is most common during the winter months. Outbreaks have been reported in Alamance, Henderson, Burke, and Beaufort Counties, according to the Associated Press.

“It is not a fun illness to have, but it is pretty self-limiting and usually goes away in one to three days,” McCall says.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly stomach cramping. Some people may also have fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of tiredness. The illness begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. There are no specific medications to treat Norovirus.

“It can be dangerous for people who have their immune system compromised because they can become dehydrated. That is the main danger with people who have some kind of underlying medical condition. The elderly and young children are probably the most at-risk for that,” McCall says.

Norovirus is present in the stools and vomit of sick people during illness and for a few days after they recover.

People can get sick through direct contact with a person who has the virus, by touching contaminated surfaces, or by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with the virus.

McCall says the most effective way to prevent the spread of the Norovius is through hand washing.

“Some of these waterless hand sanitizers are not effective against the Norovirus, so you really need to use soap and warm water and vigorously wash your hands after you go to the bathroom and before you prepare food,” McCall says. “If you do have a diarrheal illness like this, do not prepare food for other people up until 48 hours after the symptoms resolve.”

Epidemiologist Nicole Lee, of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Department, says that there are several illnesses that must be reported to the health department in accordance with state laws. Lee says that individual cases of the Norovirus are not required to be reported, but outbreaks of the virus are.

“It really is more of a state-wide issue where we would want people to know to stay home if you are ill. We get reports of people who are symptomatic, and what we are seeing is that there are outbreaks from November to April. We are starting to get reports in various counties,” Lee says.

Many commonly used disinfectants are not effective against Norovirus. McCall recommends cleaning with a diluted bleach solution to disinfect surfaces after an episode of the illness.

Public health experts recommend the following measures to protect yourself and your family from Norovirus:

  • Clean up vomit and diarrhea immediately.
  • Do not prepare food for others to eat while you are sick and for at least 48 hours afterward.
  • Even after symptoms are gone, wash your hands frequently, especially after going to the bathroom.
  • Remember that you can spread the virus for days, and sometimes weeks, after the illness ends.

McCrory’s Approval Rating Falls To Lowest Point Yet

RALEIGH – N.C. Governor Pat McCrory’s approval rating has fallen to its lowest point yet, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling in Raleigh.

Tom Jensen, Director of PPP, says that 53 percent of voters in the state disapprove of the job he’s doing, compared to only 35 percent who approve.

“It’s really happened four or five months in a row now that Pat McCrory just keeps on hitting all-time lows in his approval numbers,” Jensen says.

Jensen says the numbers show that many voters appear to be upset that several of his former campaign staffers are now working in the state Department of Health and Human Services and are earning salaries of more than $80,000. Only eight percent of voters in the state support those salaries, compared to 73 percent who oppose them.

The poll also finds that McCrory is losing ground with Republicans and Independent voters.

“He had already gotten over the summer about as low as he could get with Democrats, but now he is starting to lose even more of the people who actually voted for him,” Jensen says.

In a hypothetical match-up, the numbers show that McCrory is trailing four Democrats, all of whom Jensen says do not carry significant name recognition. Those opponents are state Attorney General Roy Cooper, Janet Cowell, Charles Meeker, and Josh Stein.

“He has really lost his image as a moderate Republican,” Jensen says.  “Now, I think a lot of people who thought that he was maybe more centrist don’t like him anymore because they think that he is just a total conservative.”

Jensen says increasing the minimum wage is one way that might help McCrory get back his bipartisan credibility and influence his approval ratings positively. Sixty-one percent of voters in the state favor increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour, with only 30 percent opposed.

To see the full results of the poll, which surveyed 600 North Carolina voters, you click here.