COVID-19

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.

NC Department Of Public Safety

North Carolina will remain in Phase 3 of coronavirus restrictions for at least three more weeks, and limitations on indoor gatherings will be lowered to 10 people from 25 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

Other Phase 3 restrictions – such as restaurants remaining at 50% capacity and limiting large stadium gatherings to 7% of capacity – will remain in place.

Photo credit: Amanda Mills/CD

North Carolina coronavirus cases dipped a bit on Monday after a week of steady increases including a record high of more than 2,900 on Friday.  State officials say they’re watching the trends closely  as we head into the holidays.   BPR’s Helen Chickering checks in with  NC Health News Editor Rose Hoban the risk that comes with being cooped up during cooler weather and a look at some new health trends emerging from the pandemic.  

Dan Forest campaign

WINSTON-SALEM — An unidentified person who attended a campaign rally for Republican candidate for governor Dan Forest tested positive for COVID-19, North Carolina health officials confirmed Wednesday.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said it’s aware of one case involving a person who attended a rally for the lieutenant governor in Burnsville on Oct. 15, spokeswoman Kelly Haight Connor said. No further details were available.

Courtesy of Principal Chief Richard Sneed

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

NC Health News

Coronavirus cases are rising in North Carolina with the state adding more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases daily  since Thursday (10/18).  BPR’s Helen Chickering checks in with  NC Health News Editor Rose Hoban about the case surge and the newly released NC Health News Voter Guide on Health.

Hannah Critchfield / NC Health News

The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina is now over 231,000 with 1,719 new cases reported on Sunday.  Hospitalizations remain over 1,000 as health officials keep a close eye on trends, amid a week that saw the third-highest jump in cases since start of the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes as President Trump prepares to return to the campaign trail after recovering from COVID-19.  The virus is also complicating the voting process for some North Carolinians.   Just a few of the topics BPR’s  Helen Chickering unpacked with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban and this week.

iStock

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.

WNC COVID-19 Phase 3 Updates

Oct 4, 2020
Pixabay

Governor Cooper announced September 17 that children in kindergarten through 5th grade can attend in-person classes starting October 5.  However, learning still looks different for every county and school district in Blue Ridge Public Radio’s listening area. Here is the breakdown of all 15 school districts:

ASHEVILLE

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.”

Courtesy of American Journal of Surgery

Since March, more than 9,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in BPR’s Western North Carolina listening area.  Most of those cases end up at the region’s biggest hospital, Mission in Asheville.  Dr. William Hathaway is Chief Medical Officer there. He says the hospital has been following CDC guidelines around patient testing.

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.

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.  

WNC COVID-19 'Phase 2.5' Updates

Sep 5, 2020

This page is no longer being updated.  For the latest news, go to our Phase 3 Updates page here.

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. 

Resúmenes para la semana del 17 de agosto

Aug 21, 2020
Illustration by Luis Martinez

Reapertura de Escuelas

 

Los alumnos de escuelas públicas a lo largo de Carolina del Norte han vuelto a clases esta semana. Pero sólo algunos irán presencialmente a clases, mientras que otros comenzarán su año escolar de manera virtual. Se estima que alrededor de un 40% del distrito escolar volverán a sus salones de clases. 

 

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. 

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