Situation Update for July 26 through August 1, 2020
Cases are continuing to increase for Watauga County and we are not yet seeing a downward trend. Of the newly identified cases for this week, we are continuing to see the same trend with cases exposed due to close contact with others through living or working closely with others or attending social gatherings. Also, we are continuing to see community transmission which means exposure is occurring locally and there is not always an identified source of exposure for the cases.
“We are concerned about increased community transmission with more cases reported. We urge continued vigilance in practicing the 3W’s by wearing a face covering, waiting six feet apart, and washing hands frequently. We all want to return to a level of normalcy but this virus is still very much with us so we need to do all we can to protect ourselves and our community,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.
Key points from this week:
- ● Our case trends have continued to increase with the largest percentage of cases in the 18-24 and 25-49 year old age group. We urge continued vigilance with all three measures: Wearing a cloth face covering, Waiting six feet or more apart, and Washing hands frequently. Combining these three consistently will have additional benefits in helping us curb the transmission of the virus.
- ● We are continuing to work with Watauga County Schools as they prepare for a new school year and are providing public health information to inform their decisions about school operations. On Tuesday, July 28, the Watauga County Board of Education held a special meeting and made a decision to begin the school year under a modified Plan B which will have students participating in virtual learning the first nine week period and allow for a phased in return of staff and some students who need individual support during this period.
- ● We are continuing to work to increase testing opportunities for the community. Planning for proactive testing for staff in locations that have opted-in to that service continues. Also, we are conducting response based testing when data gathered in the case investigation of a positive case informs the need to conduct broader testing. These response based testing events are intended to focus on areas where there is potential for further spread, a cluster of cases, or an outbreak.
- ● PPE (personal protective equipment) levels remain stable in most areas. However, there is a reported shortage expected in nitrile gloves in the supply chain. Similarly, Lab Corp has reported some limitations in test ordering. AppHealthCare has utilized support from Watauga County Emergency Services and established state processes to submit additional requests for support for these items.
- ● Turn-around times for testing have improved with most tests resulting around 2-4 days. We are also partnering with High Country Community Health to assist to connect with some situations when rapid testing is needed, and are working to be able to have rapid testing for symptomatic patients in August. Appalachian State Student Health Service is also working to be able to provide this to diversify our laboratory tools for earlier detection so we have more opportunities for control measures like isolation and quarantine being more successful.
- ● On August 3rd, 3 case investigators began work to assist with increased demand as we see numbers of confirmed cases increase and an additional case investigator will start in a couple weeks. We have posted 5 additional positions to assist with COVID-19 response efforts to respond to the increased demand due to increased cases. More information about those positions can be found here .
- ● Preparing for additional contact tracing capacity and response testing for congregate living remains a top priority with the planned return of students to campus at Appalachian State University in August, in partnership with Appalachian State University Emergency Management and Student Health Services.
- ● Outreach continues to be an important part of our collective community strategy to address COVID-19. Regular meetings take place with community partners to discuss the current situation in the county, strategize areas for growth and improvement and provide a time for questions and answers.