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ASSA ABLOY riding wave of increase in demand
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UNION COUNTY — ASSA ABLOY (ASSA), a manufacturer with three locations in the county, has experienced an increase in demand of their products because of COVID-19.

ASSA designs, builds and installs automatic entrance systems like the sliding doors in grocery stores and revolving doors at hospitals.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, automatic entrances may be the way forward in the future as door handles become antiquated.

Automatic door entrances have been trending upward for several years, but it has grown at a higher rate because of COVID, explains Jeffrey Buennemeyer, president, door solutions.

Noting how people may use their elbows or shoulders to open doors or press buttons on elevators or at crosswalks, Buennemeyer said: “I think in general, people are varying degrees of being germaphobes. I think the heightened awareness of this pandemic, focus on social distancing and washing your hands and hygiene — these things are not likely to go away and in fact most of them are likely to stay permanently.”

He continued: “One of the things that we see in — we’re in the automatic door industry is a market leader in this business — if you wanted customers back into your facility ... you have to adapt how they interact with that facility whether it’s an automatic door or whether it’s an automatic paper towel dispenser, automatic soap dispenser… and the most important thing whether it’s employees or customers is you want them to feel comfortable and confident coming into that facility.”

Buennemeyer said most of ASSA’s sales have been returning customers who are installing scanners next to entrances so people can scan badges or cards at the door to enter a facility. He explained that the industry was in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic and had to “ramp up” production.

About 25% of ASSA’s customers are healthcare facilities — especially Intensive Care Units in New England where cases surged the most at the beginning of the pandemic, Buennemeyer said.

Because the demand for automatic entrances in ICUs was great, but the time it took to build an entrance took 4 to 6 weeks, ASSA created quick-turn doors for ICUs. If a hospital in New York put in an order on a Friday, ASSA would have an entrance installed by the following week, Buennemeyer shared.

Another item that became popular during the pandemic is to place an electronic device above a manual door that senses a person approaching the entrance and opens automatically which is a cheaper option and is easy to install. He said ASSA has seen an increase between 20 to 45% in production.

Sliding doors are the third most popular item at ASSA.

MONDAY'S UPDATE: County eclipses 15,000 COVID cases
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Union County — There was a record 311 new COVID-19 cases reported in Union County on Sunday (Jan. 10), according to NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS). Combined with 141 new cases on Monday (Jan. 11), the County has now confirmed 15,016 COVID cases.

Cumulative cases indicate both those who have tested positive and those who have come out of an isolation period.

There were four new COVID-related deaths confirmed in the County on Saturday by NC DHHS. As of Monday, there have been 116 virus-related deaths in the county since April 9, 2020, according to NC DHHS. The United States Census Bureau estimates there are roughly 240,000 people living in Union County as of July 1, 2019.

Across the state, there have been 629,124 total cases and 7,578 virus-related deaths in less than a year, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine’s Dashboard. The state’s positivity rate is now at 13.9% as of Monday and the county’s positivity rate is at 19.6%.

Union County averaged 10 COVID-related deaths for the first 7 months since the first death was confirmed in April — the average has been 23 deaths per month over the past 2 months.

UCPS elementary students attending school 4 days per week
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MONROE — Union County Public Schools returned to Plan A and Plan B instruction on Monday (Jan. 11), according to a report from the UCPS communications department.

After all students of the public school district spend last week (Jan. 4-8) learning virtually due to the rapidly-increasing spread of the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus within Union County, UCPS elementary students resumed in-person classes four days a week on Monday, while middle/high school students will learn in-person two days per week. Students who enrolled in Plan D (all-virtual learning) will remain in that option. Fridays are a remote learning day for all UCPS students.

The average number of confirmed COVID cases in Union County has more than tripled since Thanksgiving, rising to more than 300 per day in 2021. The 311 cases confirmed in Union County on Sunday (Jan. 10) was a record.