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An update on a story we’ve been following since the spring of 2017.   That’s when four artists from New York bought the Tryon childhood home of legendary singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone.  Restoration work is underway, BPR's Helen Chickering traveled to Tryon to check it out.   

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This week, US Health officials announced there are just over 700 reported measles cases across the country.  That’s the most cases in 25 years and a major source of frustration for public health officials since measles was declared eliminated in this country back in 2000.  Twenty-two states have reported cases, North Carolina has not yet made the list –but state health officials, especially here in Buncombe County, are on alert. BPR’s Helen Chickering has details.

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President Trump this week renewed his pledge to battle the country’s opioid epidemic. Trump spoke at a national drug abuse conference in Atlanta.  Here in Western North Carolina, students are working to raise awareness about the epidemic. BPR’s Helen Chickering reports from  A.C. Reynolds High School, where students organized an opioid education summit. 

“This is something that just doesn’t happen. It is being deliberately mischaracterized to shame women and to make a court case to overturn Roe V. Wade.” - Buncombe County Democratic state senator Terry Van Duyn during Senate Judiciary Committee's heated debate over SB 359

Asheville is hosting North Carolina’s tenth annual communicable disease conference this week. Public health professionals are learning about the latest infectious disease trends and the tools they need to prevent, detect and treat them.   This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Public Health Nurses in North Carolina.     

NC health officials say the meeting provides an opportunity to share evidence-based information and best practices for addressing public health problems and and communicable disease investigations. 

Executives, entrepreneurs, climate scientists, and students from across the country are converging on Asheville to tackle the business of Climate Change.  BPR’s Helen Chickering has details.

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When it comes to the health of its counties Western North Carolina gets mixed reviews. BPR’s Helen Chickering has the latest results from the annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report.

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Local faith communities gathered outside of the Islamic Center of Asheville Friday afternoon to show their support for the Muslim community in the wake of the mass shootings at mosques in New Zealand.   BPR's Helen Chickering spoke with supporters and members. 

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 Asheville’s Brandi Hillman, co-owner of Hillman’s Beer and Josh Dorfman, CEO of the nonprofit climate business incubator The Collider are among the sixteen members of governor Roy Cooper’s new entrepreneurial council.  The group is charged with helping design policies that encourage entrepreneurship, foster economic development and support sustainable high quality jobs.                             Josh Dorfman says an important part of the council’s mission is helping shape the state’s entrepreunial bra

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Last month Asheville City Council members and school officials gathered to address  the growing  gap in discipline rates and academic achievement between  black and white students in the district.

High school students have had a lot to say about racial disparity on campus.

STR Inc.

Keep the momentum going is the message from the latest analysis of Buncombe County’s lodging market by hotel industry tracker STR Incorporated.  The report was presented on Friday by STR’s Bennjin Lao at an event hosted by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a pair of living teddy bears make their debut at the  Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville.     BPR’s Helen Chickering has a preview.

The Fed Cup women’s tennis tournament is in back in Asheville this weekend with the U-S taking on Australia.  The first match is Saturday, but action has been happening all week with events and activities designed to get kids interested in tennis.  BPR’s Helen Chickering stopped in on a Fed Cup tennis clinic at the U.S. Cellular Center.

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You’ve probably heard about the movement to reduce the use of plastic straws, which can’t be recycled and end up in landfills and in the environment. As BPR’s Helen Chickering reports, local environmental groups are on a mission to expand that campaign here in Western North Carolina.

In 2018, the nonprofit Asheville Greenworks kept more than 161,000 pounds of hard to recycle materials out of the landfills in Western North Carolina.  During free events held throughout the year in Buncombe County,  volunteers collected everything from televisions to empty toothpaste tubes.  The organization is kicking off it's first  Hard 2 Recycle event of 2019, on Saturday, January 19th in West Asheville. 

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A few weeks ago, we introduced you to biologist Rebecca Helm who moved to Asheville to study jellyfish.  While working on the piece, BPR’s Helen Chickering connected with  another marine pioneer  -  who brought sharks  and marine science to Hendersonville. 

mountainjellyfish.com/Rebecca Helm

Tourists flock Western North Carolina for the mountain views, hiking trails and attractions like the Biltmore House.  Sea life is not on the list, but that could change.  BPR’s Helen Chickering has the story of an unexpected find in the Western North Carolina waters that prompted a marine biologist to move to the mountains. 

Good news for last minute insurance shoppers. Pisgah Legal Services, in partnership with Mission Health is hosting a free enrollment event Saturday, December 15 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.  at the Mission Health/AB Tech Conference Center at 16 Fernihurst Drive.  No appointment is needed.

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Last year, more than half a million North Carolina residents signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  With less than two weeks left in the 2019 open enrollment period, there is concern that those numbers will be down.  BPR’s Helen Chickering checked in with Pisgah Legal Services managing attorney Jackie Kiger . 

Lilly Knoepp

  The North Carolina Department of Commerce released its economic development ratings for all 100 counties. Here’s more on what that means and how Western North Carolina ranked:

 

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.

Lilly Knoepp

 Incumbents at the state and federal level did very well in Western North Carolina.  BPR caught up with the Macon County Republican Party in the town of Franklin as they celebrated their victories.

Macon County, a traditionally conservative county, stuck with that trend. State Senator Jim Davis (R) and State Representative Kevin Corbin (R) both won. This will be the 5th term for Davis and the 2nd for Corbin.

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. 

What We're Watching As Election Day Nears

Oct 25, 2018
Jeremy Loeb/WCQS

Early voting numbers are up in North Carolina with Election Day less than 2 weeks away.  What do the early numbers tell us?  Who's up and who's down?  What are the big races to look out for?  BPR's Jeremy Loeb discusses the latest with Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper.

Lilly Knoepp

This summer, the North Carolina Legislature voted to make early voting hours uniform from 7am to 7pm. However, county budgets had already been finalized so many election boards weren’t able to pay for extended weekday hours which resulted in some locations closing.

Lilly Knoepp

Mission Health has finalized their deal with HCA but it isn’t done yet. The deal is currently on the desk of NC Attorney General Josh Stein. Stein is expected to approve or amend the deal near the end of November.

Mission Health’s deal will affect 18 counties in Western North Carolina so each community has a chance to send letters to Stein voicing their concerns about the deal or their support.

Photo courtesy of Southwestern Community College

  There isn't just a lack of hospitals in rural Western North Carolina. There is also a need for more trained medical professionals to care for the population from doctors and nurses to CNAs.

 

This summer, Southwestern Community College secured over $20 million dollars from the federal, state and county governments for a new health sciences building.

 

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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.

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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.

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