Helen Chickering

The chicken pox outbreak at the Asheville Waldorf School has triggered a legal challenge.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(Update: 11/29/18) The chicken pox outbreak that began at an Asheville private school in late October is far from over according to the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services.  The latest numbers show 37 students at the Asheville Waldorf School along with 4 people in the community have contracted the virus.  Health officials are not releasing details about the additional cates, saying only rhat they are connected to the  outbreak at the school .  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a chicken pox outbreak is not declared over until 42 days have passed without a new case. 

In a statement on its website, the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services says based on the timing of the most recent case in the community, the outbreak will continue into 2019.  The state health department says it's the largest chicken pox outbreak in the NC since the vaccine was introduced in 1995.  

The Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services says the chicken pox outbreak at an Asheville private school has now spread to more than 30 students. (update: 11/19/2018 - 36)   And as BPR’s Helen Chickering reports,  the school has a history of high vaccine exemption rates.

A number of familiar names and offices are on the 2018 midterm election ballot, and there are those 6 amendments everybody is talking about.   What is likely not so familiar are the county races for  Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.   If you haven’t heard about it, you are not alone.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports. 

Open Enrollment for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act is now underway.  The nonprofit Pisgah Legal Services held a press conference this week and urged consumers to get educated before enrolling.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.

“Number one, the ACA is still the law, and it is working”

BPR

State health officials have extended the immunization deadline for public school students to November first - to give more time to families impacted by Hurricane Florence.  Meantime, in Western North Carolina, health officials are facing a different kind of vaccination challenge – the growing number of parents who are choosing not to immunize their children.   BPR’s Helen Chickering has been following the newly formed immunization coalition as it works to reverse that trend.  She checked in with them in September, during one of their meetings.

Last week, Hurricane Florence quickly grabbed the headlines from a major sporting event happening right here in Western North Carolina. The World Equestrian Games kicked off just as the storm was moving towards the coast.  After a short delay earlier this week, the spotlight is once again shining on the Tryon Equestrian Center. But as Helen Chickering reports, the real horse story is down the road.

Jason deBruyn WUNC

The latest numbers from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show for the 2017-18 school year, Buncombe County once again had the highest number of unimmunized students, who opted for a religious exemption.

On a busy Thursday morning at Asheville Children's Medical Center, Dr. Sam Kohn made the rounds. It was toward the end of summer break, so there were lots of back-to-school check-ups and vaccines on the schedule that day.

Many visits were easy, following the simple routine of parents bringing their tots in for their shots.

USFS

An increase in bear encounters has prompted  the U.S. Forest Service to consider clamping down on food storage rules for campers in parts of Western North Carolina. BPR's Helen Chickering has details. 

What's the difference between plummet and plunge? Tune in for that answer and more on an Asheville edition of Says You! Sunday afternoon from 1 to 2. 

BPR

The Tryon birthplace of singer, song writer and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone has been named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The nonprofit is teaming up with the four New York City artists who bought the small wooden cottage in 2017.  The organization will devise a plan to rehabilitate the house so that it might be used by future artists.

hia.org & Donnie Rex

Farmers and fans of Industrial Hemp are gathering across the country this week to rally support for the once illegal plant.  North Carolina is one of forty-two states that allows the crop through pilot programs or for research. 

A small farm here in the mountains was chosen to help kick off the week long national campaign. BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.

On a sunny breezy morning, Just outside of Asheville, in the scenic countryside of Leicester, a crowd gathered on a farm.  They were here to celebrate a plant come.

Health officials have confirmed four cases of pertussis, (whooping cough) in Buncombe County. Three other cases have been identified, which health officials say are connected to the four lab-confirmed cases.           BPR's Helen Chickering spoke with Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services medical director Dr. Jennifer Mullendore about pertussis, the cases and what health officials are doing to help stop the respiratory illness from spreading.  

Here’s more from Buncombe County Health and Human Services:  

BPR News

Among the thousands of teachers who filled the streets of North Carolina's capital Wednesday, were hundreds of educators from Western North Carolina.  Many who were unable to make the trip to Raleigh attended satellite rallies, including one in Asheville. 

“Thank you so much for coming today”

Around 10 o’clock Wednesday morning, teachers and supporters who couldn’t make the rally in Raleigh, gathered at THE BLOCK off biltmore in  downtown Asheville to make posters and phone calls to lawmakers

ASPCA

A one of a kind dog shelter has opened its doors in Buncombe County.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ASPCA – unveiled its new  Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Weaverville.  The Center is the first-ever permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and study of fearful, anxious – often unadoptable dogs. Most are the victims of cruelty or neglect.   BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.  

Southwestern Community College

If you visit a National Park, there’s a good chance you’ll cross the path of a ranger who was trained right here in Western North Carolina.  Southwestern Community College in Sylva is one of only seven colleges in the nation that offers the National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Academy. 
 The program is one of the oldest in the country and just graduated its 100th class.  BPR’s Helen Chickering visited the academy while school was still in session.

Buncombe County Schools

At the first-ever Student Opioid Summit,  high school students across Buncombe County, Asheville City Schools and Madison County Schools spent the day learning about the drugs, everything from how the opioids affect the brain to how casual use can lead to addiction.    In the afternoon, the students held brainstorming sessions and were encouraged to come up with action plans to implement at school in an effort to increase awareness and promote prevention.  The inaugural summit took place at the Biltmore Park Campus at Western Carolina University.

March 14 is National Pi Day, a time to celebrate the mathematical constant, 3.14 and a good excuse to eat pie.  BPR’s Helen Chickering talked with UNCA Math Professor Sam Kaplan about why the irrational number deserves its own day, why math intimidates many of us, and his work in the community - outreach that uses math as a platform to help local students sharpen their leadership skills. 

Leonardo da Vinci may be best known for his artistic masterpieces, but he was also an accomplished engineer and scientist.  That mix of science and art helped inspire a local group of artists, scientists, teachers and citizens to launch the area’s first arts and science festival.  BPR’s Helen Chickering caught up with one of the organizers, biologist Jason York.

Asheville’s first Arts and Science Festival will be held on Saturday, March 31 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Salvage Station.  The event is free and welcomes all ages.

Climate City is just one of Asheville’s many nicknames.  A local nonprofit is working to elevate that moniker to a new level.  In March,  the climate innovation center,  The Collider, is kicking off ClimateCon 2018.  The business of climate is the headline event of the conference that organizers say – has something for everyone.  BPR’s Helen Chickering spoke with Megan Robinson, The Collider’s Executive director.

The 2018 Fed Cup brings international professional tennis competition to  Asheville  Feb. 10-11 for the USA vs. Netherlands World Group First Round.

The weekend competition features tennis star Venus Williams and her sister Serena, who is making her debut after maternity leave and who, on Friday, made an Asheville teen’s dream come true. 

The post-holiday purge is underway as  people rid their homes of boxes, wrapping paper and trimmings.    Many of those items can go in the recycling bin, but not everything.   BPR’s Helen Chickering got some tips from Nancy Lawson, with Asheville’s Curbside Management.  

BPR News

The TV show Shark Tank matches charismatic investors with fledgling entrepreneurs who are hoping to snag a business deal.   Earlier this month, some students at UNC- Asheville got a taste of the reality show experience.  Blue Ridge Public Radio’s Helen Chickering has details.

BPR News

The holiday season is in full swing, and for many, that means it’s time to find a  Christmas tree.    Here in Western North Carolina, the experience is a bit like shopping for toys in Santa’s workshop.  The region produces the majority of Christmas trees for the state and is the second biggest producer in the country. 

One of the big issues in the GOP tax reform bill is the elimination of the health insurance mandate  - the requirement, under the Affordable Health Care Act, that all Americans get coverage or pay a fine.  ACA open enrollment is underway through December 15, and the impact of the tax bill is just one of many questions and concerns.   BPR’s Helen Chickering spoke with Jackie Kiger, managing attorney with Pisgah Legal Services

unfccc.int

Nearly 200 countries are wrapping up the annual United Nations Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany this week. Notably absent is the United States. This summer, President Trump declared he is pulling the U.S. out of the landmark Paris Climate Accord, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and holds countries accountable for limiting the rise in global temperatures.   But the move hasn’t stopped hundreds of climate scientists and researchers from participating, including Western Carolina University’s Rob Young, a geologist who directs The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.  Young spoke with BPR’s Helen Chickering shortly after he returned from Bonn.

Just over a month after Mission Health’s contract with Blue Cross expired, the two organizations have gone back to the negotiating  table.  A Blue Cross spokesman confirmed by email that talks are underway, saying, “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Mission Health have entered into discussions regarding a future network participation agreement and will refrain from public comment until those talks are completed.”

globalchange.gov

If you suffer from allergies, you may have noticed you sneezed a little longer this fall.  But you may not have linked that extra sneezing to global warming.  Scientists and Public Health officials met in Asheville last week for a workshop on the climate health connection.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.

Open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins today amid continued uncertainty over the fate of the health care law.  Here in Western North Carolina, the recent split between Blue Cross and Mission Health adds another layer of confusion and stress for consumers.  

BPR News

The open enrollment period for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is just around the corner, and uncertainty about costs, subsidies and what policies will actually cover is still growing.  Adding to the anxiety for consumers in Western North Carolina, the only insurer on the exchange is still at odds with the region’s largest health care provider.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports

The flu season is officially here and the first report from the state health department, shows just under ten cases have been confirmed in North Carolina.  But health officials say that could quickly change and they are urging people to get vaccinated.    

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