COVID-19

Courtesy of Macon County Schools

School boards across Western North Carolina are still deciding on whether to make masks mandatory for students and staff.  The region’s Congressman has recently attended several meetings to share his views against mask mandates. 

The Macon County Board of Education met on Monday night to discuss the school system’s masking policy which was planned to be optional.  The meeting was virtual because of high COVID-19 case numbers in the county. 

Pexels

Students and staff in 8 out of 16 school districts in BPR’s listening area will not be required to wear masks indoors. Masking indoors and for unvaccinated people is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

 

Buncombe, Henderson, Swain, Madison, Macon and Jackson Counties as well as Asheville Schools and Cherokee Central Schools will require masking on campus. This list was updated on August 17th. 

Courtesy of NC DHHS

COVID-19 numbers have spiked across North Carolina in recent days. BPR’s Lilly Knoepp has a look at what’s going on in the far-western counties…

When infections spiked at the beginning of this year, Western North Carolina was a few weeks behind more urban parts of the state in seeing high COVID-19 numbers.  That’s not the case in this newest wave explains Haywood County Health Department spokesperson Allison Richmond.

Courtesy of Mission Health

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.

Courtesy of Dakota Brown

 Over a year ago, the borders of some local counties and regions were shut to the public to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

As part of BPR and Foxfire Museum's oral history project,  Dakota Brown, education director at the Museum of the Cherokee shares what it was like when the Qualla Boundary closed during her interview with Foxfire curator Kami Ahrens.  

NCDPS

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in our weekly segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer.   

Lilly Knoepp/BPR News

Three states box in Western North Carolina - Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.  All three responded to the pandemic much differently than North Carolina did.  BPR reports on a study which examined which approach worked better.

COVID restrictions – even now almost 15 months later - look very different across Western North Carolina’s borders.

Sean Mulholland is a professor of Economics at Western Carolina University. He notes that Democratic North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper put more COVID restrictions in place than his Republican counterparts in neighboring states.

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in a new segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer.  This week's COVID question comes from Charlene Reeves of Asheville.

Lilly Knoepp

Do you have a question about the COVID vaccine?  We want to hear from you!  Record your question as a voice memo on your cell phone and email us at voices@bpr.org or use the "talk to us" feature on the free BPR mobile app.

ncdhhs

COVID-19 cases in North Carolina continue a “rolling simmer” with the 7-day average of new confirmed cases now hovering around 2,000.  At least 1,096 people are hospitalized, up from 1,064 from Friday. Meantime, state and local health officials are grappling with how to keep up  vaccine enthusiasm – just a few of the topics BPR’s Helen Chickering and NC Health News editor Rose Hoban tackle in their weekly coronavirus check-in.  

Pardee UNC Health Care

North Carolina now is now under a new – less restrictive -  pandemic executive order, an updated COVID vaccine schedule. And somewhere in-between in all – Governor Roy Cooper revealed announced his budget plan with a renewed push for Medicaid expansion. It is a good time for our check-in with North Carolina Health News editor, Rose Hoban.

George and Ann Goosmann smile while sitting in the stands near the 18th Green at Pebble Beach while visiting California in 2018.
Photo courtesy of George Goosmann.

COVID-19 has altered our lives in numerous ways: from work to school to staying connected to friends and family. While the country processes a year of loss and uncertainty, many are reflecting on how the pandemic has changed them. For BPR and Foxfire’s COVID oral history project, we hear from Asheville resident Ann Goosmann, interviewed by her son George, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in a new segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer.   

This week's question comes from Emma Rodriguez of Henderson County. “After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, if I get  tested for COVID-19,  will the test come out positive?”

As COVID-19 shots go into arms across North Carolina, state health officials continue to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably.  A recent CDC  report  puts North Carolina among the top ten states in the nation for equitable vaccine distribution.                                                                                              But when it comes to access to care for COVID-19 patients, North Carolina’s plan for   rationing care fell short, according to federal regulators.  NC Health News editor Rose Hoban has been following the story and shared details during her weekly check-in with BPR’s Helen Chickering.

Courtesy of Tiger Drive-In

Businesses in Appalachia - like the rest of the country - have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But some have found themselves uniquely suited to thrive over the last year. This week for BPR and Foxfire Museum's COVID-19 oral history project, we hear from a business owner who was able to carry on with a nostalgic outdoor entertainment that brought people together - safely - during the pandemic.

Tom Major, owner of Tiger Drive In Theater was interviewed by Foxfire Museum fellow and Rabun County high schooler Zain Harding in July 2020.

Wake Forest Baptist Health

BPR is answering listener queries about the coronavirus in a new segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer. 

WNC COVID-19 Updates: Week Of Mar. 8

Mar 8, 2021
Courtesy of Jackson County Public Health

Do you have a question about the COVID vaccine?  We want to hear from you!  Record your question as a voice memo on your cell phone and email us at voices@bpr.org or use the "talk to us" feature on the free BPR mobile app

Looking for information about where to get vaccinated near you?  North Carolina Health News has a comprehensive listing of county vaccines sites, which will be updated often. Find it here.

Need a ride?  NCDOT and NCDHHS have distributed funding to help pay for transportation. Check with your local transit agency for more details.  You can find your agency online  NC_public_transit.pdfOpen PDF

Caitlin Penna/Western Carolina University

As more people get vaccinated in North Carolina, more places are opening to administer the shots.  BPR looks at Western Carolina University’s on-campus clinic.

The clinic, located at the school’s Health & Human Services building, opened to the public this week. This is after administering over 600 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in February to help clear Jackson County Department of Public Health’s waiting list.

“Our website and call center went live yesterday around 2 p.m.”  

Bars in North Carolina  welcomed back customers indoors over the weekend after almost a year of outdoor only cocktail service.  On Friday, the Governor Roy Cooper’s new executive order took effect, allowing indoor service at bars with 30% capacity,  lifting the 10 p.m. curfew and  easing capacity restrictions for a number of businesses and venues.  During Wednesday’s briefing the governor stressed that the new order was part of his continued “dimmer switch approach”  noting that key indicators used to guide decisions throughout pandemic show state’s trends are moving in the right direction.  On the same day the order went into effect, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the country’s recent progress in slowing the coronavirus spread may be "stalling" as highly infectious new variants become more predominant.     BPR’s Helen Chickering discussed the new order and variants with NC Health News Editor Rose Hoban.

Lilly Knoepp

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in a new segment "Talk To Us: COVID Questions" BPR’s Lilly Knoepp brings us this week’s answer.

This week, Niyaso Cannizzaro of Buncombe County submitted this question: “When will at-risk individuals under the age of 65 be able to get the vaccine?”

To get an answer, we asked Melissa McKnight, deputy health director with Jackson County Public Health:

“So if you have a high-risk individual but they aren’t yet 65. They are likely to be assigned to group 4,” said McKnight.

Graphic by Foxfire Mountain Heritage Museum

Blue Ridge Public Radio is partnering with Foxfire Mountain Heritage Museum to launch a campaign to collect oral histories about the COVID-19 pandemic in Appalachia. The goal of the project is to record our region’s experiences with COVID-19 and to bring together the Western North Carolina community during this time of isolation.

 

Photo courtesy of Foxfire Mountain Heritage Museum

Blue Ridge Public Radio is partnering with Foxfire Mountain Heritage Museum to launch a campaign to collect oral histories about the COVID-19 pandemic in Appalachia. The goal of the project is to record our region’s experiences with COVID-19 and to bring together the Western North Carolina community during this time of isolation.

How to Participate

Courtesy of Haywood Health and Human Services

Local health departments across Western North Carolina are depending on volunteers to help them with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

BPR talked with a former public health director who came out of retirement to help administer the vaccine.

Patrick Johnson retired as the public health director for Haywood County’s Health and Human Services Department last fall, after working in public health for 36 years.

“When I decided to retire, they talked me out of it once,” said Johnson. He’s 66 years old.

Melissa McKnight/Jackson Public Health

Rural counties in Western North Carolina are vaccinating first responders.  BPR went to a mass COVID-19 vaccination in Jackson County.

A cold wind blows outside the Jackson County Recreation Center in Cullowhee. But it hasn’t stopped officers, firefighters and first responders from lining up to receive their COVID-19 vaccines.

“There’s actually been a good turn out. It was actually real smooth once we got in line.”  

That’s Kent Davis, a deputy with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.  He’s worked in law enforcement for more than 35 years.

Macon Public Health

In order to meet the demand for vaccinating residents, Macon County is cutting back on contact tracing.

On Monday, Macon County Public Health department announced it would no longer issue press releases about COVID-19 clusters in order to move three nurses from contract tracing duties to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

“If you could double my staff then I could vaccinate all week long and test all week long.”

Lilly Knoepp

The pandemic has hit non-profits and museums hard due to travel and social distancing restrictions.   One museum in our region appears naturally poised to weather the pandemic.

The War Woman cabin on the property of the Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center is decorated for Christmas. It was built in the late 1880’s but is now styled as a 1940’s Appalachian cabin with a woodstove and a vintage radio that clicks on when you enter the room:

“Where the blue of the night… meets the gold of the day,” plays the radio.

Photo courtesy of New Kituwah Academy

Long before the world had ever heard of COVID-19, the Cherokee language was in trouble.

Last year, the three tribes in the U.S. declared a state of emergency because there are now so few fluent speakers.  That includes the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in Western North Carolina.  Here’s how the pandemic has impacted the teaching of the language:

The New Kituwah Academy started in 2004 to teach a new generation of fluent Cherokee speakers. Like other schools, the pandemic caused educators to go to virtual instruction.

Courtesy of Ben Guiney

Jackson County is one of six jurisdictions in Western North Carolina now considered to have ‘critical’ community spread of coronavirus, the highest such classification from the state.  BPR talked to a doctor who was recently in quarantine with COVID-19:

Dr. Ben Guiney tested positive for COVID-19 on November 28th.  He’s not sure if he got COVID working at Harris Regional Hospital or not. During his isolation, Guiney was separated from his family by his bedroom door.

North Carolina broke another coronavirus daily case record on Sunday,  as more people get tested before Thanksgiving.    Gov. Roy Cooper will hold a coronavirus task force press briefing Monday afternoon.(11/23).  BPR’s Helen Chickering checks in with North Carolina Health News editor Rose Hoban about the metrics, concerns about hospital staffing and a look at how some nursing homes in North Carolina are keeping the virus at bay.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that the state’s coronavirus numbers are “too high,” and the state health department has launched a hotspot map system to better pinpoint and address regional surges of COVID-19.

Pages