COVID-19

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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. 

 

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. 

Resúmenes para la semana del 22 de Junio

Jun 23, 2020
Illustration by Luis Martinez

Actualización Coronavirus 

 

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

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Macon County continues to have the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in Western North Carolina. BPR takes a deeper look at one of the county’s largest employers, which saw one of the first clusters of cases there. 

 

About 8 percent of Macon County roughly 34,000 residents have been tested for COVID-19 explains Emily Ritter, the public information officer for the county’s Public Health department.

 

Resúmenes para la semana del 15 de Junio

Jun 18, 2020
Illustration by Luis Martinez

Reapertura de negocios comerciales

 

El gobernador de Carolina del Norte, Roy Cooper, aseguró que la próxima semana se confirmará si los negocios cerrados por causa del COVID-19 podrán volver a abrir sus puertas al público. Según la última orden estatal, restaurantes, salones de bellezas y peluquerías ya podían comenzar a funcionar pero con una capacidad máxima reducida. Bares, gimnasios, teatros y cines deben permanecer cerrados hasta el 26 de Junio o hasta que el gobernador promulgue una nueva orden. 

Cass Herrington / BPR News

La comunidad latina ya representa más de un cuarto de los casos de COVID-19 en el condado de Buncombe.

Según el último censo realizado en la región, la población latina/hispana representa el 6.7% del total de habitantes, sin embargo, el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos ha confirmado recientemente que esta comunidad actualmente representa al 27% del total de contagiado con el coronavirus.

Resúmenes para la semana del 8 de Junio

Jun 12, 2020
Illustration by Luis Martinez

Condado de Forsyth

 

Agentes oficiales del Departamento de Salud Pública del condado de Forsyth confirman que la situación con el coronavirus sigue compleja y que la población hispana se está viendo fuertemente afectada. Para muchos, la respuesta frente al virus ha sido bastante diversa. 

 

Cass Herrington / BPR News

Latinos now account for more than a quarter of Covid-19 cases in Buncombe County.

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Macon County now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 proportionately in the Blue Ridge Public Radio listening area. 

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.     

 

Buncombe County high school seniors will still graduate this weekend.  But it won’t be like they imagined. 

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.

Families In Fear At Stricken Nursing Home

May 29, 2020
Kathie Carnahan

Kathie Carnahan nursed her husband through two major surgeries, watched helplessly as dementia robbed the once vibrant attorney of the ability to speak, and made the gut-wrenching decision to place him in an Asheville nursing home.

Matt Bush

Both Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos opened at 30 percent capacity Thursday morning.

When Chief Richard Sneed of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians talks about the tribe’s yearly budget - he’s also talking about the revenue of Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos.  

 

“I don't think that most of our citizens have given much thought to the fact of how everything is tied to gaming revenue,” says Sneed. 

 

The Henderson County sheriff’s department will not enforce social distancing guidelines.  Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin says he’s “frustrated by the governor throwing a blanket over the state.” 

“The constitution wasn’t suspended just because of this pandemic," Griffin said. "We’ve got a lot of small business owners that are hurting...and these multi-trillian dollar packages that our federal government is passing is not helping at all." 

 Griffin says it should be up to individuals and local municipalities, not the state. 

Resúmenes para la semana del 25 de Mayo

May 26, 2020
Illustration by Luis Martinez

Fase 2 y uso de mascarillas

 

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: 

WNC COVID-19 'Phase 2' Updates

May 24, 2020
CDC

(7/3 12:30 p.m.) North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports a record daily increase of  2,099 lab confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the state total to 70, 241.  The number of people hospitalized also hit a new high of 951.  For more information including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  There have been more than 2,300 hundred confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area.  Click here for data from Georgia and other neighboring states and  here for more local informaiton and resources. 

(7/2)  Buncombe county health officials are readjusting the county’s  COVID-19 death data after a long term care facility mistakenly reported coronavirus as the cause of death in 10 of its residents.  Interim public health director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore shared the news Thursday afternoon at a community briefing. Mullendore noted that COVID-19 had been confirmed in the 10 long term care residents, but that after a review, it was determined their deaths did not meet the case definition.  

(7/2 12:15 p.m.) -North Carolina has reported 68,142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,629 cases from the day before.  912 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 11 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on July 2nd, there are 2,071 cases of COVID-19 with 96 deaths, with 1,998 cases and 95 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(7/1 3 p.m.) Governor Roy Cooper pushed back his self-imposed July 1 deadline for a statewide school reopening plan, saying state officials need more time to "get it right."  "My number one  priority is to open classroom doors, " said Cooper at Wednesday's coronavirus task force briefing.  "We encourage schools to keep planning with a focus on how teachers, students and other staff can best be protected."   The governor said there was no one event that triggered the delay.    Last month, the governor announced three potential plans for public schools that ranged from students in class with few restrictions to online learning that resembled the end of this school year.   Cooper said he expected to announce firm plans in the next few weeks. 

(7/1 2:30 p.m.) Over the weekend, Principal Chief Richard Sneed of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, announced the second death of a citizen in the tribe related to COVID-19. There are now 71 positive cases on the Qualla Boundary as of June 30.

(7/1 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on July 1st, North Carolina has reported 66,513 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,843 cases from the day before.  901 people are currently hospitalized, a decrease of 7 from the day before.  1,373 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 30 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on July 1st, there are 1,998 cases of COVID-19 with 95 deaths, with 1,940 cases and 95 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/30 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 30th, North Carolina has reported 64,670 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,186 cases from the day before.  908 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 65 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 30th, there are 1,940 cases of COVID-19 with 95 deaths, with 1,895 cases and 93 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/30 12 p.m.) The town of Murphy has lifted its the pedestrian curfew which was put in place on June 3 as demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were happening across the country. A rally organized by local youth was held in Murphy in support of racial justice solidarity on June 4.

The town previously had a curfew in May to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The 8 p.m. curfew ended at 9 p.m. on June 29.

(6/29 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 29th, North Carolina has reported 63,484 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,342 cases from the day before.  843 people are currently hospitalized, a decrease of 47 from the day before.    For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 29th, there are 1,895 cases of COVID-19 with 93 deaths, with 1,827 cases and 93 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/28 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 28th, North Carolina has reported 62,142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,785 cases from the day before.  890 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 2 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 28th, there are 1,827 cases of COVID-19 with 93 deaths, with 1,781 cases and 93 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/27 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 27th, North Carolina has reported 60,357 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,539 cases from the day before.  888 people are currently hospitalized, a decrease of 4 from the day before.   For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 27th, there are 1,781 cases of COVID-19 with 93 deaths, with 1,746 cases and 93 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/26 4:30 p.m.) Cherokee County Sheriff says that his officers will not enforce the statewide mask requirement.

This afternoon on WKRK Christian Radio in Murphy, Sheriff Derrick Palmer explained that it would “not just be impractical but impossible” to enforce masks being worn in the county. He says that he will uphold any businesses’ right to ask customers to wear masks while inside their place of business.

“We don’t want people going in and defying business owners and saying, ‘I’m going to shop there regardless and I’m not wearing my mask because the sheriff said I could.’ We don’t want that,” says Palmer, adding these individuals can be charged with trespassing. 

 Palmers says that wearing a mask is an individual choice but it’s probably “a good idea.”

“I’m very leery of when we come to things that say ‘You are required to do these and you will be punished criminally if you don’t.’ That’s where my heartburn is and where I get upset over these things,” says Palmer. 

Palmer described the legal enforcement of wearing a seatbelt in your car as another example of a law that should be a personal safety choice. 

Town police departments within the county will be able to interpret the executive order as well.

(6/26 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 26th, North Carolina has reported 58,818 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,005 cases from the day before.  892 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 1 from the day before.  1,297 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 13 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 26th, there are 1,746 cases of COVID-19 with 93 deaths, with 1,711 cases and 93 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/25 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 25th, North Carolina has reported 57,813 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,009 cases from the day before.  891 people are currently hospitalized, a decrease of 15 from the day before.  1,284 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 18 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 25th, there are 1,711 cases of COVID-19 with 93 deaths, with 1,677 cases and 93 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/24 10 a.m.)  Macon County Public Health has identified a COVID-19 outbreak in staff at Macon Valley Nursing Home in Franklin. Two staff at the nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19. Both are asymptomatic and are isolating at home.

At this time, no patients at Macon Valley or at any Macon County long-term care facility have tested positive for COVID-19.

All the residents and staff of Macon Valley Nursing Home are being tested for COVID-19 as a precaution. Macon County Public Health is also working to identify any contacts of the two individuals.

Macon Valley Nursing Home says that it has been screening all staff and visitors before they enter the nursing home. The long-term care facility also outlined the measures it has taken to secure PPE and hand sanitizer since March in a press release. The facility says it has built an isolation unit for use if any residents do become infected.  

Both employees will not return to work until they have two negative COVID-19 tests.

(6/24 3:30) Citing metrics that continue to rise instead of leveling off, Govenor Roy Cooper extended Phase 2 of his three-part pandemic response plan for at least three more weeks. He also issued a statewide mandate that begins 5 p.m. Friday requiring residents cover their faces in most situations where social distancing of at least six feet isn't possible. That includes customers and employees at retailers and restaurants along with workers in manufacturing, meat-processing, agricultural and other industries. People with medical conditions that would be worsened by masks don't have to wear them, and neither do children younger than 11.  Read Executive Order No. 147 that implements today’s announcement.  Read Frequently Asked Questions about today’s executive Order and mandatory face coverings.  Read NCDHHS guidance on face coverings.  

(6/24 3 p.m.) Today Mission Health announced that it is rolling back COVID-19 visitor restrictions. One adult per patient will be allowed to visit during the hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all hospitals. Additionally patients in pediatrics, NICU, laboring advocates, and end of life care – will be allowed to have 1 person remain overnight. All visitors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and required to wear a mask.

This change does not apply to COVID-19 patients or patients awaiting COVID-19 test results. They will not be allowed to have visitors. 

 

(6/24 2 p.m.) Southwestern Community College officials confirmed on June 20 that a student tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s the first case involving a student or employee at the college. The student was last at the Jackson Campus on Monday, June 15. SCC officials are working with local health department officials to locate anyone who may have come into contact with the individual.

All employees and students determined to have come into contact with the student have been notified and urged to get tested. Relevant classes were canceled for Monday, June 22. Face-to-face classes were cancelled on May 26 but some classes which required in-person instruction restarted on June 1. 

SCC officials urge anyone who was at the college’s Jackson Campus on June 15, and is experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness to isolate and contact a healthcare provider immediately.

(6/24 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 24th, North Carolina has reported 56,174 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,631 cases from the day before.  906 people are currently hospitalized, a decrease of 9 from the day before.  1,266 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 15 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 24th, there are 1,677 cases of COVID-19 with 93 deaths, with 1,627 cases and 92 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

 

(6/23 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 23rd, North Carolina has reported 54,543 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 848 cases from the day before.  915 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 45 from the day before.  1,251 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 28 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 23rd, there are 1,637 cases of COVID-19 with 92 deaths, with 1,608 cases and 91 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/22 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 22nd, North Carolina has reported 53,605 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 804 cases from the day before.  870 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 25 from the day before.  1,223 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 3 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 22nd, there are 1,608 cases of COVID-19 with 91 deaths, with 1,603 cases and 91 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/22 11:45 a.m.) The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reopened tribal offices on Monday (today). Many tribal operations have been closed because of COVID-19 precautions. Face masks will required for all tribal employees and those visiting tribal offices. Appointments are also required. The offices will be closed on Fridays. Offices will be open 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. 

(6/21 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 21st, North Carolina has reported 52,801 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,412 cases from the day before.  845 people are currently hospitalized, a decrease of 38 from the day before.  1,220 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 8 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 21st, there are 1,603 cases of COVID-19 with 91 deaths, with 1,578 cases and 91 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/20 12:15 p.m.) - As of 12:00 p.m. on June 20th, North Carolina has reported 51,389 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 1,549 cases from the day before.  883 people are currently hospitalized, an increase of 12 from the day before.  1,212 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, an increase of 15 from the day before.  For more information, including county-by-county and demographic breakdowns, click here.  In the 13 North Carolina counties in Blue Ridge Public Radio's listening area, as of 12:00 p.m. on June 20th, there are 1,578 cases of COVID-19 with 91 deaths, with 1,549 cases and 91 deaths reported the day before.  For information on cases in the state of Georgia, click here.  For more local information, click here.

(6/19 2:00 p.m.) - Buncombe County says it will reopen most of its public-facing offices on Monday June 29th.  The alternative means the county set up to allow residents to access services during the pandemic will continue to operate, and county officials urge people to use those when possible.  Face coverings must be worn in the offices that will reopen.  Those offices include -

  • Ag and Land Resources (Soil and Water/Coop. Ext) -  49 Mount Carmel Road, Suite 101
  • Air Quality - 52 Coxe Ave.
  • Budget, Communications, County Manager’s Office, Finance, HR, Internal Audit, Legal, Performance Management, Sustainability - 200 College St.
  • Permitting and Inspections - 30 Valley St. 
  • Planning & Development - 46 Valley St.
  • Register of Deeds (Vital Records department is already open to the public), 205 College St.
  • Strategic Partnerships - 35 Woodfin St.
  • Tax Assessor - 155 Hilliard Ave.

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.”

Buncombe County will require the wearing of face masks in most indoor public settings starting next week.  The decision comes as North Carolina enters 'Phase 2' of its reopening Friday afternoon after restrictive stay at home orders due to COVID-19.

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.” 

 

It began with one employee falling ill from the coronavirus.

By Friday morning, just 11 days later, 55 elderly and infirmed residents at the Aston Park Health Care Center in southwest Asheville and at least 30 of its staff had tested positive.

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. 

Sales Tax Projections Impact Local Government Budgets

May 21, 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic popped up just as local governments across the state were in the heart of budget season. That’s forced many to reassess plans that were made back in January. As cities and counties ponder budget cuts, they’ll look closely at the pandemic’s impact on sales tax revenue.

Carolina del Norte comienza Fase 2 el viernes

May 21, 2020
Adobe Stock

El gobernador Roy Cooper confirmó el miércoles que el estado de Carolina del Norte comenzará la Fase 2 de reapertura, a partir del viernes a las 5pm.

 

Esta nueva orden denominada “Más seguro en casa” permite a los restaurantes, piscinas y salones de bellezas volver a abrir sus puertas con un máximo de capacidad del 50 por ciento.

 

Cass Herrington / BPR News

An emergency relief fund which launched in March in response to COVID-19 has so far dispersed 78 loans to small businesses in the Asheville Area. 

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