Coronavirus

Courtesy of Principal Chief Richard Sneed

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

A comedian performs in a back yard under string lights before a small crowd.
Photo Courtesy Melissa Hahn

Melissa Hahn had found a way to make it in comedy—not with her own punchlines, but by presenting funny people five to seven nights a week, at assorted Asheville venues, through her company Modelface Comedy

“In February, I did the biggest show of my career. I got to produce a live comedy special for Bobcat Goldthwait at the Mothlight,” she recalled. “And then a month later, the world stops.” 

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Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week, on the heels of the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis,  they take a brief look back in history at other presidents who have fallen ill while in office, and forward as North Carolina moves forward into Phase-3 of the governor’s coronavirus reopening plan.

Photo courtesy of TWASA

The struggle to get the most updated information on the spread of COVID-19 in a community has been crucial for local and national government decision-making. Here’s the unlikely source of data for a Jackson County project that hopes to increase the speed of information.

COVID-19 testing delays and asymptomatic carriers have contributed to a slower understanding of how many people in a community have the virus.

“Our goal here is to really give public health officials an early warning for what’s happening in the community.”

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss the latest COVID-19 metrics,  what might be on the list as the governor lifts more restrictions in his coronavirus reopening plans and a newly released federal report that spotlights deficiencies in nursing homes across the state, which have been coronavirus hot-spots.

Lilly Knoepp

Graham County started off COVID-19 by shuttering its borders.  Months later, the county is experiencing an outbreak at a nursing home.

Graham County didn’t experience COVID-19 community spread until August unlike many surrounding counties which spiked much earlier.

“Graham County for their flu season typically runs about 6 weeks behind the state.”

That’s Beth Booth, director of Graham County Health Department.

https://covidprisonproject.com/

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss White House Coronavirus Task Force visit to North Carolina as the state’s COVID rate “simmers”, the continued rise in cases among inmates, and the criticism that the state has not done enough to help release more eligible people from prison early to help reduce the spread of the virus.  

Lilly Knoepp

COVID-19 cases in Western North Carolina have stabilized says Dr. Mark Jaban, medical director of Haywood County Health and Human Services.

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss North Carolina’s move to Phase 2.5 of the governor’s reopening plan, what happened behind the scenes as lawmakers hammered out the remainder of the federal coronavirus relief package, and why some researchers are revisiting the question about conducting research in prisons.  

Tom Snow

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban. This week they discuss the public health mentions  in Governor Roy's Coopers budget proposal, CDC's updated coronavirus testing guidelines and  - river otters.  They sure are cute, but what do they have to do with our health?

dailytarheel.com

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss the quick- switch to all online-learning by two universities in the UNC system, the complicated challenge of communicating public health messages during a pandemic along with a check-in with primary care practices. 

Michelle Shiplet

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Graham County closed its borders.  BPR talks with a local nonprofit about economic struggles of finding food during the pandemic:

As one of the least populous counties in all of North Carolina, Graham County has seen a slower spread of COVID-19 than other areas.  It took until this month for community spread to occur. But throughout the pandemic, access to food has been an issue in the community.

“I’m standing outside the door hollering numbers and meals through the window and delivering boxes to vehicles.”

Rose Hoban / NC Health News

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week (after a week off) they discuss the seemingly stabilizing coronavirus trends as NC college students return to campus and public schools begin to open, the testing numbers error that shines a light on outdated data collection methods and  the coronavirus budget breakdown that included a “what if we had expanded Medicaid” moment.

Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University

A lawsuit has been filed against the UNC System to halt the start of classes statewide. The lawsuit lists all UNC System schools including Western Carolina University.

Associate Professor Jack Summers teaches chemistry at Western Carolina University. He’s one of the lawsuit plaintiffs because he says COVID-19 makes it impossible to have a safe work environment on campus.  

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The Western Carolina University Faculty Senate narrowly approved a resolution calling for all classes to go online when the fall semester starts next week.  Dr. Yancey Gulley, an associate professor in higher education and student affairs programs at the school, introduced the resolution. 

He says the decision on whether classes should be online or in-person lies with the statewide UNC System.

Photo by Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University

Western Carolina Faculty Senate will vote on Monday for a resolution asking the university to be 100 percent online because of COVID-19.  Chair of Faculty Senate Kadence Otto says the emergency meeting was called in order to bring up the resolution before the semester starts – even though it won’t send students home.

“Even if the resolution passes nothing is going to change because the resolution is simply the voice of the faculty,” says Otto. The vote will take place via Zoom. 

Photo by Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University

 

The first day of class for most UNC System schools is August 17. BPR spoke with a Western Carolina University student who already contracted COVID-19 as school officials set out new policies to address the pandemic.

Miranda Curtis is from Murphy. She’s a hospitality and tourism management major at Western Carolina University. Right now she’s rethinking that career path... 

“I mean it seemed like a good major before all of this started,” says Curtis, who is 23-years-old.

Greg Barnes

Every Friday, we check in with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban to discuss the latest coronavirus news making headlines.  This week, the conversation focused on  an investigation by NC Health news reporter Thomas Goldsmith about the quality of care  at state owned veteran’ nursing homes managed by a private company, and where 36 North Carolina residents of military service have died of COVID-19.

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University students will be back on campus this weekend.

 

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Sam Miller expects about 400 students will move into the residence halls on Saturday. Students have signed up for specific times to remain socially distant.  

 

In total, about 3,500 students will be living in the dorms when classes start on August 17. Miller says this is down from about 4,000 last year for a variety of reasons. 

 

ncdps.gov

North Carolina COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations keep rising, but NC is still in better shape than many Southern states.   However, the disproportionate number of cases among Latinx/Hispanic communities  continues to concern health officials and was the focus of Thursday’s coronavirus briefing that included high-ranking leaders from the Mexican and Guatemalan Consulate.  BPR’s Helen Chickering asked  NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban about numbers, the push in prevention efforts in Latino communities and more during their Friday check-in.

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Western Carolina University is preparing for next month’s fall semester, which will have a mix of in-person classes and online instruction. 

 

Western Carolina University has 15 different work groups and task forces finalizing the details of the return to school next month.  Cory Causby is the associate vice chancellor of human resources. 

 

Courtesy of Harrah's Cherokee Casino

Five employees of the table games section at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino have tested positive for COVID-19. 

"The cluster occurred as a result of 5 employees testing positive in a 14-day period," says Vickie  Bradley, Secretary, Public Health and Human Services in an email. The fifth employee was identified on Friday, July 17. 

The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina is hovering close to 100,000 with 1,820 new cases reported on Sunday.  Hospitalizations declined over the weekend but remained over 1,000.  The continued rise in new cases and hospitalizations prompted Governor Roy Cooper to extend Phase-2 of his reopening plan for another 3 weeks.  The governor also announced plans for K-12 schools this fall.  

Every Friday,  BPR’s Helen Chickering checks in with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban and this week – there was lots to talk about.

Every Friday we check in with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban for a look at the week in COVID-19 headlines.  Rose is visiting family in New York is week, so we connected by cell phone (pardon the occasional static).

Mountain State Fair

Two WNC fairs have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At a  press briefing at the WNC Ag Center Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced the annual Mountain State Fair will not be held in 2020.  The fair was scheduled to talk place Sept. 11 through 20 at the WNC Ag Center in Fletcher.

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Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss the pause on the governor’s school opening plan, the politics of masks and the parallels between the coronavirus and HIV/Aids pandemics.

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Sheriffs across North Carolina will not enforce the statewide order on wearing face masks in public.  Here’s why: 

 

Eddie Caldwell is Executive Vice President for the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association.

 

“We’ve tried to read it and explain it to the sheriff’s in as clear language as we possibly could,”says Caldwell. 

 

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  Among the topics of discussion this week:  Governor Roy Cooper's Phase-2 pause and mask mandate, the latest from the General Assembly -  including a bill addressing hospital patient visitation during the pandemic and a Medicaid package, plus a look at challenges dentists are facing as they work to re-open

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor announced that a Highlands Town Hall employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. All of the town hall’s employees - about 10 including the mayor - have now been tested and are awaiting results. Taylor says the employee had been working from home but had been in the office intermittently. 

 

 Taylor says that he supports the new mandatory order for masks in public. 

 

Courtesy of Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital

Erlanger Health System has laid off CEO Mark Kimball of Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital in Murphy.

The health system laid off 11 leadership positions throughout the Erlanger Health System due to revenue losses associated with COVID-19. 

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