News

Staggered by COVID-19 infections, both among incoming patients and its own healthcare staff, Mission Hospital in Asheville is postponing all scheduled surgeries at the main hospital and will admit emergency and critically ill patients only after a case-by-case review, hospital administrators said Tuesday.

Lilly Knoepp

The pandemic, over 10,000 public comments and more have all had a hand in delaying the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan.

Here’s the latest on the strategic plan that will manage over 1 million acres of national forest in Western North Carolina.   

James Melonas is the forest supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina. Here’s how he describes how close the plan is to being completed:

The next virtual meeting of the BPR Community Forum is scheduled for Tuesday February 22, 6:00-7:30 PM via Zoom. BPR will welcome new Forum members, share station updates and discuss working group ideas and priorities for 2022. Learn about our all our Forum members here.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Gavin Stewart and Vanessa Owen are rehearsing with two other dancers inside a studio at the Wortham Center for Performing Arts. Everyone is masked.  

 

“OK Janice, so can you lift your eyes when you do that?” Stewart asks one of the dancers while watching a sequence of movement. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s juicy.” 

 

They had such grand plans for their collaboration with Asheville storytelling poet Gina Cornejo. They would have seated the audience in the middle of the dance floor, as if inside the hole of a donut, and performed the piece around them.  

 

Instead, as they have done so often during the pandemic, Stewart and Owen have improvised. They had planned to perform a piece called “Dirty Laundry” in front of an audience. They’re now converting it into a video production that will stream online to ticket-holders, premiering Feb. 12 through the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. 

The Porch: Snakecharmer

Jan 20, 2022
Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

On this episode of The Porch, a production of the BPR news team, we hear from -

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The nation's political eyes are on North Carolina.  First, for the gerrymandering lawsuit that the state supreme court is expected to rule that will determine lines for U.S. House and General Assembly elections this year, but also for the U.S. Senate election which could determine which party controls the chamber next year.

Bob Orr has had a long career in the public eye.  His latest career move actually falls in line with what he first went to UNC Chapel Hill to study.

To meet the growing demand for COVID tests, some local health departments in Western North Carolina  are opening additional testing sites. 

A COVID testing site will open  on the campus of UNC Asheville starting this Friday 1/21 from 1 p.m.-8 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Room in the Highsmith Student Union, located at 2500 University Heights, Asheville NC 28804. Weekend testing will be available for the next six weeks and is open to the public. No appointment needed.

Dreaming las Américas: the journey of Representative Ricky Hurtado

Jan 19, 2022
A close up of Ricky and Yazmin Hurtado standing under a tent with a campaign banner in the background. Ricky wears a lavender button down shirt and a pin in the shape of North Carolina
Courtesy Ricky Hurtado

On January 13th, 2021, Ricky Hurtado made history as the first Latino Democrat to be elected and sworn in to the North Carolina General Assembly.

“For many years, I have felt, leading up to this moment,” Ricky noted, “que no soy de aqui ni de alla.” (I’m neither from here nor there.) 

NPR's fourth annual Student Podcast Challenge is back and now open for middle and high school students. There are three competitions, including opportunities for middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students pursuing their associate's or bachelor's degrees.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

 

Dozens of businesses in downtown Asheville boarded up their windows when protesters marched in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. Those planks of wood became the canvases for painted murals that remained up through the summer of 2020 and beyond.

 

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Cold overnight temperatures and winds gusting over 30 miles per hour could cause problems for the Tuesday morning commute in Western North Carolina. School systems across the region have canceled classes for the day.

NC DOT

(Sunday 5:30 p.m.)  About 8,000 Duke Energy customers were without power late Sunday afternoon in Western North Carolina after a storm that dropped close to a foot of snow in some areas passed through the region.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


John and Cinnamon Kennedy formed their first band before they knew how to play their instruments.

“One day, John and our neighbor were like ‘We’re making a band you’re going to be our drummer.’” Cinnamon said. “We started out as, like, terrible-terrible-terrible, and then we got increasingly less terrible, and by the time we were done, we were alright.”

Lilly Knoepp

A Planned Parenthood clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee burned down on New Year’s Eve, and investigators have confirmed arson was the cause.  The clinic was one of the few near Western North Carolina. 

Here’s how this impacts the region. Molly Rivera is a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. She says healthcare is connected – even across state lines.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

President Joe Biden will deliver remarks in Atlanta on federal legislation to protect voting rights Tuesday afternoon. His speech comes as Senate Democrats have been unable to pass major voting rights legislation since taking the majority in the chamber.

BPR News

The pandemic is showing no sign of letting up  in North Carolina. The state set another COVID  daily case  record with 29,069 new cases on Sunday (1/9). For perspective, BPR’s Helen Chickering checked  in with North Carolina Health News editor Rose Hoban.  (and check out the NC Health News look ahead for health in 2022  here)

Buncombe County Government

Mission Health’s chief medical officer is leaving his role to join Mountain Area Health Education as CEO.  According to a news release, William Hathaway, MD, will  assume his new role February 7, succeeding Jeffery Heck, MD, who announced his retirement in August after a decade lead

Local colleges are set to resume classes this coming Monday, January 10. With the omicron variant spreading across Western North Carolina, campuses are taking extra precautions.

Masks will be required indoors at all four schools. Here are a few of the precautions each campus is taking: 

UNC-Asheville

In this episode of Going Deep, our hosts go back to an issue they've spent much of their recent years discussing - concussions in contact sports.  They catch up with two engineers - Eric Nauman and Tom Talavadge - whom they first met while John was coaching at Purdue University.  They've talked with Eric and Tom before about their work on microconcussions, and they get the latest on what the pair have

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Heather Newton's mother has written nine novels for young adults. She’s also the first to read and critique whatever Newton thinks is ready to go out into the world. 

 

“More importantly than that, she demonstrated for me how writing can just be a part of your life and not something mysterious,” she said. “She had four kids but she would go into her office every day and write until about one o’clock, and she got nine novels written that way.” 

Bryan Miler/Courtesy of BPR News

Update January 5 at 10 am: Wednesday morning power was almost completly restored across the Western North Carolina mountians. Five residents in Henderson, Buncombe, Haywood, Graham and Polk Counties respectively are still in the dark, according to Duke Energy.

There is potential for another snow storm on Thursday night to Friday morning in the region, according to The Weather Channel. 

Peter Vann

The Asheville Symphony's new Alt ASO series fulfills something music director Darko Butorac has wanted since arriving in Asheville three seasons ago—taking the orchestra out of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and into smaller venues around town.

The series calls on smaller configurations of the orchestra performing a broader array of music. Programs in the initial series feature songs from the likes of Lady Gaga, Guns n’ Roses, Queen and Nirvana, along with operatic works. 

Lake County (Indiana) Assessor

On paper, Eddie George was a savvy real estate investor, chairman of VLM Investments LLC that bought and sold nearly $1 million worth of properties in Buncombe County in a little more than a year.

Screen capture by Sally Kestin

At stake inside a Buncombe County courtroom were a grandfather’s legacy and a family’s inheritance.

Asheville real estate investor Robert Perry Tucker II had just purchased 10 acres along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but nine siblings in the Lyda family still had a claim to approximately 25 percent of the property, left to them by their grandfather.

NCDHHS

 (12/31)  The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 18,571 positive tests for COVID-19   onThursday(12/30),  the highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases on record and 60% higher than the previous record of 11,581 set in January of this year.  Cases and hospitalizations are also on the rise in Western North Carolina and COVID-19 tests are in high demand. 

Lilly Knoepp

It’s been four months since Tropical Storm Fred devastated Haywood County – leaving six dead and a long cleanup ahead.  BPR takes us to Canton, one of the hardest hit areas, for a look at how the town is doing as the year ends.

Caroline Ponton is the curator at the Canton Area Historical Museum in downtown Canton.  Five months after the storm the museum still doesn’t have power.

“This is the basement. The first time I came here everything was decimated,” said Ponton.  

Stars pay tribute to late guitar icon Tony Rice

Dec 22, 2021
Forrest L. Smith, III/Wikipedia

Virginia-born musician Tony Rice isn’t well-known commercially, but his influence on bluegrass guitar is undeniable. While playing with some of the biggest groups of the 1970s Rice helped transform the scene.  But his timing and precision later lent itself to other genres.

As COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. ahead of Christmas, President Biden delivers remarks Tuesday on his administration's plans to fight the onslaught of cases and the rapidly-spreading omicron variant of the virus.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Evan Kafka spent this past Friday night mounting animal heads on a wall as people strolled by sipping cups of wine.

To be clear, Kafka’s “trophy series,” as he calls it, are photographic portraits of animals that are very much alive. You can find Kafka’s work locally in a couple small boutique galleries. But Kafka is among about 120 people renting space at the massive new art market called Marquee. He said the potential exposure and sales are too promising to pass up. 

“I didn’t want to miss out on being part of this market, which I think is really cool,” he said. “I think it’s a great fit for the scene here.”

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