City manager provides update after COVID-19 outbreak among firefighters forces changes in Onslow County


An outbreak of COVID-19 among some firefighters in Jacksonville is part of the reason government officials in Onslow County are making changes to help prevent the spread. Camila Barco, WNCT photo

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Jacksonville City Manager has provided an update on the firefighters that were exposed to COVID-19.

Initially, 12 firefighters were sent home after exposure to the virus.

They were on the same shift, but at different stations.

Since being sent home, 10 firefighters have returned to service after testing negative.

From this group, two firefighters are still out and have not been cleared to return.

A separate group of four firefighters were sent home when they were exposed.

They were not on the same shift as those initially exposed.

Currently, six fighters are out until they are cleared to return.


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – An outbreak of COVID-19 among some firefighters in Jacksonville is part of the reason government officials in Onslow County are making changes to help prevent the spread.

In an effort to limit person-to-person contact and to protect its employees and citizens from COVID-19 exposure, many Onslow local governments will be restricting access to buildings and personnel. Officials with the City of Jacksonville said Tuesday it will be placing phones outside its facilities. If you need to do business with someone inside, you can call to ask that worker to come outside.

The virus and restrictions have affected several of the local government workforces. That includes the city’s fire department. Currently, almost an entire shift of firefighters, 12 overall, are in quarantine after possible exposure.

“We recognize that firemen, police officers, sanitation workers, all of these people are going to be out
in the public, every day,” Jacksonville City Manager Richard Woodruff said.

Woodruff said they will be watching and working with firefighters who are putting in overtime to keep the city safe.

“For example, let’s say we have 24 or 36 firefighters who were exposed,” Woodruff said. “Suddenly, we’re to the point where we’re really looking at the possibility of having to reduce service.”

Onslow County, City of Jacksonville, Swansboro, and Richlands will have restricted building access beginning next week.

Staff will remain on duty inside the buildings.

The City of Jacksonville’s restrictions will begin Monday, November 30.

The other local governments will begin their restrictions at 5 p.m., Monday, November 30.

Onslow County Government

If you need County services, you must call ahead. 

Limited appointments will be available, and many services are available online. 

For more information, call the Citizen Phone Bank at 910 989-5027.

Note the following exceptions and special information:

  • Public access will be permitted for all publicly-noticed governmental meetings, but meeting attendance will be restricted in number in compliance with current Executive Orders. 
  • To reducing the risk of crowding at the County airport during the holidays, family and friends meeting inbound or sending off outbound passengers are asked to wait in their vehicles in the parking lot.
  • Onslow County Public Libraries will be accessible to the public (masks required) Monday-Friday, 9 AM-Noon, and 3-6 PM for computers, browsing shelves, and WiFi usage; Monday-Friday, 10 AM-Noon, and 4-6 PM curbside pickup will be available; on Saturdays, the Main Library will be publicly accessible 10 AM-2 PM; all in-person programming is suspended.
  • Onslow County Tax Office will still be accepting payments prior to the January 5, 2021 deadline, and will spread out to provide services to both the first and second floor of the Government Center to improve safety.  Please make payments online or by telephone if possible, or use the secure drop box located in front of the Government Center.
  • Onslow County Health Department services will continue offering in-person services by appointment only.
  • Animal Services will be answering emergency calls in person. Please call ahead to make an appointment for in-person assistance at Animal Services.
  • The Meadowview Road Landfill and all convenience sites will continue on a regular schedule (and are closed only for Thanksgiving Day).  Payment boxes will be reinstalled at convenience sites.  Please bring exact change if possible.
  • The Register of Deeds office will be closed to the public and will offer online services.  Limited appointments are available for marriages and notary oaths, but please call in advance.  The Register of Deeds will accept maps and documents for a recording that are brought to their front door.
  • The Onslow County Museum will continue to limit capacity and require masks, (but are open regular hours on Saturday after Thanksgiving).
  • Onslow County Senior Services is suspending all in-person programming but will continue in-home aide, drive-through congregate meal pick-up, and home-delivered meal programs.
  • The Courthouse and Justice Center (Sheriff’s Office) are currently exempted from the closure to the public and continue having publicly accessible facilities. Please go to to get information about the court system and individual court times.  Extra spacing and mask requirements have been put into place at both facilities.
  • Parks and Recreation facilities will remain open but citizens are reminded to wear masks.

City of Jacksonville Government

For the City of Jacksonville, the restriction will close public access to the City Hall, the Center for Public Safety, some recreation sites, all fire stations and the public services complex.

Citizens will be able to use a phone at most of the entrances for these locations for connection to employees.

At the Jacksonville City Hall, drive up access to Utility Billing for water and sewer account payments will continue as usual.

For other business, it is best to call the City Hall main number (910 938-5200) before going to City Hall except for drive-up access.

Many functions with the City can be performed online, check the City website for more information.

No future Passport appointments will be issued for the City of Jacksonville until the building restrictions are lifted.

For the Jacksonville Center for Public Safety; the public can interact with staff via the Taxi Permit Window at the main entrance to the Center.

Taxi permits that expire during the closure will be automatically extended until the building reopens.

No fingerprinting services will be offered during this time.

All city fire stations are closed to the public because of this action.

Potential visitors should call the Administrative Line at 910 455-4000.

Some Jacksonville Recreation school and senior connected programs will continue to operate. More information is on the City of Jacksonville Recreation webpage and the Recreation Facebook Page.

Town of Richlands Government

For Richlands, Town Hall access will be closed effective Tuesday.

Persons doing business with the town can call Town Hall and set appointments.

Any item that requires close contact will be delayed, including fingerprinting.

The ONWASA box for payments is still available outside.

Town of Swansboro Government

For Swansboro, access to Town Hall and the Public Safety Building will be by appointment only effective Tuesday, December 1.

To reach Town Hall call 910 326-4428 and to reach Public Safety call 910 326-5151. 

Residents are encouraged to use online services where available. 

The Town will continue to process ONWASA payments placed in the ONWASA drop box outside Town Hall.

Access to the Recreation Center will also be limited to specific programs, please call (910) 326-2600 for details.

The Visitor’s Center restrooms will be opened daily, but the office will be closed. 

Public access will be permitted for all publicly-noticed governmental meetings (masks required), but meeting attendance will be restricted in number in compliance with current Executive Orders.

A link for meeting audio will also be provided on the Town website.

Town of Holly Ridge Government

All town facilities are closed to the general public; appointments are made on a case by case basis effective Tuesday, December 1.

Town Council meetings will be held and persons wishing to address the council will be allowed into the chambers in groups of 10 to comply with the Governor’s Orders.

Town Staff continues to work within the buildings and process ONWASA payments, permits, garbage and recycling requests, and inspections.

There are drop boxes located outside of Town Hall for their convenience.

Town of North Topsail Beach Government

Town Hall will be closed to the public effective Tuesday, December 1.

For more information you should call the Town Hall.

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