WNC

A Shot Above/Allen Newland

Haywood County was ravaged last night by heavy rains and wind from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred.

At least were 30 people unaccounted for on Wednesday afternoon after flooding caused evacuations in Haywood County.

The towns of Clyde and Canton were both on boil advisories because their shared water system is shutdown.

Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers was walking around downtown checking on local businesses when BPR spoke with him:

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.

Rebecca Helm

A local biologist who's been making waves for her research into jellyfish that reside in freshwater ecosystems, including some here in Western North Carolina is part of an international campaign to protect and better understand marine life in a vast stretch of salt water - most of us will never see.

Lilly Knoepp/BPR News

It’s been six years since the U.S. Supreme Court made its landmark ruling, making same-sex marriage legal.  But that ruling doesn’t apply to sovereign nations in the U.S. – including the Eastern Band of the Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary.  

A year before the Obergefell decision, the Eastern Band Tribal Council passed a resolution codifying the tribe would only recognize marriage between a man and woman. 

Courtesy of North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office

In the eight westernmost counties in the state, much of the population doesn't have access to broadband . Recent data also shows that access to speeds above 25 Mbps are even worse - less than 15 percent in Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Swain Counties. 

The broadband gap has become even more apparent during the pandemic as workers and students moved to working from home via the internet. 

Courtesy of Gas Buddy

Colonial Pipeline announced Thursday morning that fuel deliveries should be made by the end of the day. The pipeline restarted operations on Wednesday night after being out of service since a cyber-attack caused a shutdown.  

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.

cdc.gov

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 Dr. Penny Brewster  of Franklin.

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?”

Courtesy of Bob Wehr

Before the pandemic, agricultural funding came North Carolina’s westernmost counties to help connect farmers and those in need of local food. BPR shares how during the pandemic, the program became even more important:

Just a few miles outside of downtown Robbinsville sits Bob Wehr’s 27-acre farm.

“It's in a little bit of a valley. It’s kind of pretty. It has a Southern exposure, so it's a lot of sunlight. It's just kind of fun and makes you feel good when you drive by and see the cattle out there grazing,” said Wehr, who is 76 years old.

Lilly Knoepp

The town of Franklin lost one of its matriarchs this month.

Vice Mayor of Franklin Barbara McRae passed away on March 2nd after a long battle with cancer. Long before she entered politics, McRae had a career in a different public service: journalism.

She worked as a reporter, columnist and editor for the Franklin Press for 10 years. Rachel Hoskins, now the publisher of the Press, worked with McRae for six years.

Courtesy of Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission(ARC) is looking for public input from the Appalachian community about what the commission should prioritize in the next 4 years.  The federal organization has funded economic development and infrastructure projects in the region since 1965.  BPR reported in 2019 that over the past decade the ARC has spent over $40 million in Western North Carolina on about 130 projects.

Drew Reisinger

As the country watches the COVID death toll cross the half million mark,  a Western North Carolina official has been taking inventory of the local impact.  As BPR’s Helen Chickering reports,  he ended up with a snapshot for the entire state.

Three WNC hospitals are on the list to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine shipments.  Earlier this week, North Carolina health officials announced that Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville would be among the 11 “early ship sites” that would hold the vaccine in cold storage during the approval process, which is expected to continue this weekend with the meeting of the Center for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.  

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.

Nate Hadley/WCJ

More than 1 million North Carolinians have voted during the first five days of early voting in the state.  That’s more than 14 percent of all registered voters in the state.

BPR checked in on the early voting site on campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee:

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

Jessi Stone/Smoky Mountain News

The Dogwood Health Trust Board of Directors has announced that Antony Chiang is stepping down from his role as Chief Executive Officer. 

Chiang started his role at Dogwood Health Trust in November 2019 after moving to the region from  his role as president of Empire Health Foundation in Washington state

Blue Ridge Public Radio

Voice memos are a great way to share your thoughts and concerns with your community. Think of it as sending a voicemail to Blue Ridge Public Radio that can then be played as part of a special segment or a story. Hearing your stories, comments and questions inspires us and helps the radio station succeed in its mission of amplifying the voices of our Western North Carolina community. 

Here's a simple guide to recording and sending in your voice memo. You can send the memo to news@bpr.org. 

How To Record A Voice Memo

The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Carolina is hovering close to 100,000 with 1,820 new cases reported on Sunday.  Hospitalizations declined over the weekend but remained over 1,000.  The continued rise in new cases and hospitalizations prompted Governor Roy Cooper to extend Phase-2 of his reopening plan for another 3 weeks.  The governor also announced plans for K-12 schools this fall.  

Every Friday,  BPR’s Helen Chickering checks in with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban and this week – there was lots to talk about.

Every Friday we check in with NC Health News founding editor Rose Hoban for a look at the week in COVID-19 headlines.  Rose is visiting family in New York is week, so we connected by cell phone (pardon the occasional static).

BPR

Scaffolding is going up around the Vance Monument as the city prepares to shroud the 75-foot obelisk in Pack Square in downtown Asheville.   

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a broad health measure late Monday because it contains a provision that addresses the confidentiality of death investigation records. Opposition to the item has served as a rallying cry for demonstrators for racial justice outside the Executive Mansion for days.

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

Protests in the rural towns of Western North Carolina for racial justice are growing into a movement.

 Molly Haithcock, 24 and Erykah Lasha, 22, didn’t know each other until a few weeks ago even though both went to Franklin High School. Haithcock, who identifies as a black woman, says she was sickened by the killing of George Floyd and wanted to do something - anything: 

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.

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: 

MAHEC

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. 

MAHEC

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.

MAHEC

Find the latest COVID-19 updates & info here   Along with restaurants, hotels, and many small businesses – physician practices across Western North Carolina are feeling the financial crunch from the coronavirus.  A  MAHEC  survey of 100 primary care practices finds many are being hit hard by both the shortage of  supplies  - and patients.  

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