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WNC Hospitals Respond To Rise In COVID Cases

Courtesy of Mission Health
Mission Hospital is now reinstating visitor restrictions.

North Carolina is experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 spread among unvaccinated people. Hospitalizations have more than doubled in the last two weeks, according to NCDHHS. 

The rise in cases and hospitalizations has prompted Western North Carolina’s  largest hospital system to reinstate visitor restrictions.  

A statement issued Monday by Mission Health says only one visitor per patient will be allowed in its hospitals.  There is no visitation for the COVID unit.

“The health and safety of our patients and team members is our top priority and we are taking the rising number of COVID cases very seriously,” said Nancy Lindell, Mission Health spokesperson. 

Mission Health continues to have a universal masking policy for all of our facilities and continues to strongly encourage everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For a list of area location to receive the vaccine and other COVID-19 information, visit Missionhealth.org/COVID.  

As of Monday, Lindell says 41 COVID-19 positive patients are in hospitals across the Mission Health system, with the majority in Asheville.  Just over two weeks ago, Mission was reporting 10-11 cases.   

Health officials say the Delta variant is responsible for most new infections. Cherokee and Graham Counties are among a dozen across the state that are reporting substantial community spread on the state’s COVID county alert map.   

Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWNH) in Murphy which serves Cherokee, Clay and Graham Counties has had a single visitor visitation policy since April 2021.  


“At Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital, they are allowed one visitor per day 16 or older between 1-5pm and we are constantly monitoring the cases in that area and considering visitation options,” said Jerry McDonald,  who manages disaster medicine and EMS special operations for Erlanger Health System Hospitals. 


The restriction were loosened during the pandemic but tightened again after a spike in cases. 

“During that time, the area where Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital is located was seeing an increased number of Covid patients that we weren’t seeing in Hamilton County,” said McDonald. 

EWCH is part of Erlanger Health system based in Chattanooga, TN in Hamilton County. 


Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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