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.


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. 

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering reviews the week’s coronavirus news with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss the latest COVID-19 metrics, the “have and have-not” impact on  hospital reporting,  possible mask mandate, missing racial data and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on foster care

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News Founding Editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss the latest COVID-19 metrics amid a swell of new cases and hospitalizations, factors around the disproportionate number of cases among Latino communities and the strike team tactic created by a WNC assisted living facility as it tackled an outbreak among residents and staff.

Courtesy of Mission Health

A New York Times investigation found of the 60 wealthiest hospital chains in the country, at least 36 have laid off, furloughed or reduced the pay of employees as they try to save money during the pandemic despite receiving funding from the CARES Act.  HCA Healthcare, the owners of the Mission Health system, is included in the report.  HCA system received about $1 billion in bailout funds and is one of the world’s wealthiest hospital chains.

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News Founding Editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss  the latest COVID-19 metrics, how coronavirus is changing patient care in hospitals, the potential impact of protests on the coronavirus curve,  the disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases among communities of color and a new task force formed to address many of the inequities that contribute to those statistics.     

Resúmenes para la semana del 1 de Junio

Jun 2, 2020
Illustration by Luis Martinez

Protestas en Asheville


El pasado Domingo 31 de Mayo vecinos de la ciudad de Asheville salieron a protestar por las calles del centro, para unirse al resto de la marchas a nivel nacional.

Estas protestas surgieron como respuesta a la muerte de George Floyd en manos de la policía de Minneapolis, hecho ocurrido la semana pasada. La marcha desarrollada en Asheville comenzó en el puente Bowen para luego dirigirse hacia el centro de la ciudad.

Lilly Knoepp

Macon County reported just three positive cases of COVID-19 for 12 weeks. On Friday, Macon County Public Health has announced 42 positive cases have been confirmed in the last 48 hours. This brought the total case count up to 63.

BPR News

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban about the week’s coronavirus headlines and emerging issues linked to the pandemic.  This week they discuss the increase in cases and hospitalizations during the first week of North Carolina’s  Phase-2 reopening,  the push by state lawmakers to reopen bars and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on state immunization rates.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Asheville Music Hall has seen four times the number of people turn out for its weekly virtual trivia nights than those who actually came to the club to play trivia before the pandemic. Still, it’s a thin silver lining. Matteo LaMuraglia, the club’s talent buyer, says Asheville Music Hall will go out of business within a year without the return of live, general admission concerts.

“We’d be in danger with a year of no shows,” LaMuraglia said. “We can work around it for the time being, as seated comedy, as seated live music shows, but the space is built to be a GA standing-room only (space).”

While many local musicians have taken to virtual performances to bring in some money and maintain their profiles, venues built on live music face far greater challenges while dark.

Lilly Knoepp

  This month, universities said good-bye to graduating seniors in unusual ways. BPR takes us to UNC Asheville’s English graduation: 

On May 9, Professor Lori Horvitz, head of the English Department said goodbye to her students: “I have the pomp and circumstance theme music. Do you hear that?” 

The department graduation was held over Zoom. Each professor gave some final advice and then many of the students expressed their thanks to the department. Alyssa Vincent transferred to UNC Asheville her sophomore year: 

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban about the week’s coronavirus headlines and emerging issues linked to the pandemic.  This week they discuss the metrics amid the start of North Carolina’s  Phase-2 reopening and the many roles churches are playing in the coronavirus pandemic.

Courtesy of Camp Watia

Summer camps are a big part of the culture of Western North Carolina. There are over 70 camps of all types for kids of all ages at the western end of the state. Many are still deciding if they will close due to COVID-19. 

Singing songs around a campfire, canoeing, team building - these are all activities that are associated with summer camp. They are also activities that require close contact - something that isn’t possible in a social distancing world of COVID-19.  

“Capture the flag is a big activity for us that we do every Sunday.”

Courtesy of Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce



Georgia and North Carolina have taken very different paths in responding to COVID-19. As Memorial Day approaches, BPR heads to a lake that lies in both states: Lake Chatuge is a man-made lake capped by the Chatuge Dam. It straddles the line between Georgia and North Carolina in Towns County and Clay County respectively. 


“It’s really gotten busy this week.” 


Lilly Knoepp

Governor Roy Cooper announced that restaurants, salons and pools can reopen on Friday with limited capacity as part of Phase 2 for lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, bars, gyms and other businesses will remain closed. The order however, was unclear if craft breweries are able to open. The operations straddle the line between bar and restaurant. 

Lilly Knoepp

The Campaign for Southern Equality(CSE) has announced that it is opening up an additional round of funding for LGBTQ Southerners who have been impacted by COVID-19.

 This will bring the total amount available for the program’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Program up to more than $200,000 since March. 

Abby Bishop

Across the country, counties expect to have to tighten their budgets this year because of the COVID-19 health crisis.  

The National Association of Counties estimates that by 2021 counties will have lost $144 billion dollars.  This is due to the compounded impact of funding spent fighting COVID-19 and losses in revenue such as local sales taxes.  

This is the case in Transylvania County, explains County Commissioner Page Lemmel. She says the county budget will look very different this year: 

BPR News

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News Founding Editor Rose Hoban.  This week they discuss  the latest COVID-19 metrics, how the public is responding to the modified stay-home order as Phase-2 approaches along with the recent surge in telemedicine and the challenges for rural communities.


The coronavirus pandemic has prompted some dentists to break into the new frontier of teledentistry – including  the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC).  BPR’s Helen Chickering caught up with a MAHEC dental resident as the program was just getting underway. 

Lilly Knoepp

  Mental healthcare providers say that increased anxiety and a shorter fuse are normal during COVID-19 stress.  BPR talked with one provider for rural Western North Carolina about what it’s like to deal with a pandemic – and help others through it: 


Meridian Behavioral Health Services serves the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina. Like anywhere else, life looks very different now for the organization’s health care providers:


“Pretty much everything has changed since COVID-19.”


(5/13 12 p.m.)

Buncombe County health officials are reporting the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in  long-term care facilities in the county. 

Johns Hopkins University

Every Friday,  BPR's Helen Chickering talks with NC Health News Founding Editor Rose Hoban. This week they discuss what health officials are monitoring as the first wave of  stay-home restrictions are lifted, the complicated challenge of figuring out if somebody has recovered from COVID-19 and her thoughts about Nurse’s week amid coronavirus. 

Lilly Knoepp

Graham County is one of the most rural counties in North Carolina, with just around 9,000 residents.  It’s isolation led county leaders to put in place some of the most restrictive measures in the state in hopes of keeping the Coronavirus away - but it still came anyway.

BPR spoke with Graham County’s first confirmed COVID-19 case about the responsibility she felt when she learned the news: 

Courtesy of Harrah's Cherokee Casinos

(Update 5/28) The Eastern Band announced updated COVID-19 protection measures including a requirement that everyone at Harrah's Cheroke Casino Resort and Harrah's Valley River Casino will be required to wear a face covering at all times.


(Update 5/27): Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos announced that it will open to the public at 30% capacity  on Thursday, May 28 starting at 6 a.m. 



What happens when a medical student and a dental resident harness 3D technology to help flatten the coronavirus curve in North Carolina?  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.

Courtesy of Cherokee Indian Hopsital Authority

  As a sovereign nation, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have been able to respond to COVID-19 differently than its neighbors in Western North Carolina. BPR spoke with tribal members and officials about how they are handling the health crisis:


When Jade Teesateskie got tested for COVID-19 she had no symptoms of the virus.  


“I volunteered to go get tested showing no symptoms at all and still have not had any symptoms to this day,” says Teesateskie, who is 26 years old. 


Lilly Knoepp


Jackson County Public Health Department has reported the first death due to COVID-19 in the county. The individual was over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions.