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AppHealthCare COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County for the Week of October 25-31

This document is intended to provide a regular update on the local response to COVID-19 in our communities and timely, trended data related to COVID-19. This report will be published on Fridays.

Situation Update

For the week of October 25-31 (graphs below) and looking over the past few weeks, we have continued to see a decrease in trends for active cases and those who are in quarantine. However, we have seen an increase this week in the number of people hospitalized locally for COVID-19. Given the spike in cases we experienced a few weeks ago, we urge everyone to not let up on the actions we can take to continue to slow the spread in our community. These metrics are fragile and we must keep up the work to ensure they continue to go in the right direction. Our case trends have continued to increase with the largest percentage of cases in the 18-24 old age group. However, the trend of new cases among this age group has declined.

The same trend continues with most cases exposed due to close contact with others through living or working closely with others or attending social gatherings. Small gatherings with people outside of immediate household members has contributed to additional exposures. As we get closer to the Thanksgiving and Holiday season, we encourage everyone to be mindful of the fact that this virus is still with us and there are actions we can all take to avoid and lessen our exposure and a potential spike that could overwhelm our healthcare system. If you will be hosting or attending an event, NC DHHS has compiled some tips for gathering safely and some guidance for private social gatherings .

Some of those tips include:

  • ●  Stay home if you are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19,
  • ●  Keep the gathering small,
  • ●  Stay outdoors if you can,
  • ●  Avoid self-serve food,
  • ●  Consider asking guests to self-quarantine for 14 days before the event, and if you cannot, atleast minimize your exposure to others prior to attending, and
  • ●  Maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands and wear a facecovering.For college students returning home, we encourage you to be tested close to your departure time and self-quarantine for 14 days when returning home to prevent spreading the virus to your loved ones. App State is working on departure guidance for all campus , which includes faculty, staff and students, to be published today, that also encourages them to get tested and self-quarantine.

“The Thanksgiving and upcoming holiday season will certainly look a lot different this year than it has in previous years. We encourage everyone to commit to actions that will keep you and the entire community healthy and safe and reduce the risk of virus transmission. We must keep up this commitment to ensure our metrics continue going in the right direction,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.

Key Points

  • ●  Free COVID-19 Testing at AppHealthCare: We offer free COVID-19 testing Monday throughFriday beginning at 9:30am. Please do not just show up for testing. We request that you schedule an appointment through our website or by calling our COVID-19 Call Center at (828) 795-1970.
  • ●  We continue case investigation and contact tracing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you receive a call from a member of our case investigation or contact tracing team, we urge you to cooperate and provide information that will help us conduct response efforts. You may receive a call from (844) 628-7223 or (828) 264-4995. It may also show up as “NC Outreach” or “Contact Tracing.” Your cell phone carrier may flag the call as spam. It is so important to answer the call of a contact tracer. It is a key tool in slowing the spread of this virus.
  • ●  Hospitalizations: In the past week, we have seen a slight increase from the prior week in the number of people who require hospitalization due to complications of COVID-19. We must remain focused on prevention because it could change quickly back toward the wrong direction.
  • ●  We continue to work closely with App State and Watauga County Schools to provide public health guidance and recommendations to inform their decisions about operations. App State has a dedicated website that highlights guidance, regular updates and data for the university community.
  • ●  PPE (personal protective equipment) levels remain stable in most areas.
  • ●  Turnaround times are around 2-4 days. NC DHHS provides data on testing turnaround times.This data is updated daily and can be found here .
  • ●  We continue to add positions and capacity to respond to the demand in this response effort.More information about those positions can be found here .
  • ●  Outreach continues to be an important part of our collective community strategy to addressCOVID-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.Outbreaks & ClustersData is provided for outbreaks and clusters that are active and ongoing. The number of cases for outbreaks and clusters are current as of each Thursday at 9:00am. The case counts vary day by day as new cases are identified and as cases are moved in and out of isolation. This data may not match other reported data since this is a point in time. As we conduct outbreak and case investigations, the data included in this report are subject to change. For a current case count, visit the AppHealthCare data dashboard , which is updated daily by noon.

Based on additional clarification from NC DHHS of documenting and reporting clusters, we have identified and added clusters in off-campus apartments to the cluster report after clarifying cluster linkages among Appalachian State students with NC DHHS.

An outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory confirmed cases. A cluster is defined as a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases. An outbreak or cluster is considered over if 28 days have passed after the latest date of symptom onset in a symptomatic person or first date of specimen collection from the most recent asymptomatic person, whichever is later. Additional information on the definitions of outbreaks and clusters is provided by the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services.


Routine testing continues through App State Athletics to continue identifying early any positive cases. In addition, App State Student Health Service provides testing for students each weekday. The university is offering free COVID-19 tests for App State students, faculty and staff at “pop-up” testing events every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. All events take place from noon – 5 p.m. at the Rivers Street Parking Deck. No appointments required but you will be asked for your App State ID and other identifying information. App State has a dedicated website that has guidance, regular updates and data for the Appalachian community.

Mitigation and Response Efforts

  • ●  Ongoing testing continues to monitor the health of residents in skilled nursing facilities
  • ●  Educational outreach on COVID-19 prevention with these facilities
  • ●  Positive cases are separated from others to allow for safe isolation
  • ●  Ongoing daily health monitoring is occurring at the facilities
  • ●  Monitoring of positive cases continues with public health staff
  • ●  App State and AppHealthCare review cases daily to ensure that staff and students get thesupport they need to safely isolate or quarantine and to support contact tracing efforts by publichealth staff
  • ●  Ongoing messaging continues from App State to campus about prevention measures andenforcement
  • ●  App State is offering on-campus students the ability to voluntarily opt-out of their housingcontracts if they want to return to their hometowns, and is implementing mandatory, large-scale testing in residence halls with active clusters.

Demographic Data from NC DHHS as of November 6

NC DHHS updates this data daily and can be found on NC DHHS’s website

Data for Watauga County

An important note about data context: The graphs below show the available data. Please carefully read the descriptions below the graph to understand the data limitations. The most current data is available ontheA ppHealthCaredashboard ,asthedatabelowispastdatatrended.

Important Disclaimer About Data

It is imperative that this report and the data contained within is understood in the appropriate context. Please, if you use this report, please be certain that the information included within is shared within the appropriate context. Doing otherwise may be damaging to the public health response efforts. There are multiple factors involved in addressing this virus, including compliance with public health control measures implemented by the local health director and referenced in NC GS 130A. These measures are imperative for limiting the spread of COVID-19. AppHealthCare strongly advises that when data is shared for the purposes of educating the public or informing policy decisions, it should come directly from NC DHHS or AppHealthCare as it is presented with appropriate context from those directly involved in public health response.

App State cumulative testing as of week ending November 2, 2020. These totals include tests performed at Student Health Service and from pop-up test events contracted with Mako Medical.

Additional data can be found on AppHealthCare’s data dashboard. This data is updated each day around noon.

Additional Data and Information from NC Department of Health & Human Services

  • ●  Zip Code Data – NC DHHS publishes data for confirmed cases by zip code for the state. The mapand data can be found here .
  • ●  Outbreak Data & Information – This data is broken down by type of congregate setting like anursing home, residential care facility, correctional facility, or a congregate working setting. Themap by county and report can be found here .
  • ●  Hospitalizations – More detailed data around hospitalizations, ventilators and bed capacity isnow available by regions and can be found here . Our district counties are in the Triad Healthcare Preparedness Coalition.Key Messages
  • ●  Show Your Love! This multi-county communication campaignfocuses on showing your love to yourself, others around you and the community. Posters and social media graphics for the 3Ws are now available on our website in both English and Spanish. Download them here .
  • ●  Practice the 3Ws if you have to leave your house – Wear a cloth
    face covering, Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer and Wait 6 feet from others.
  • ●  Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, handles, light switches, countertops, etc.
  • ●  If you are sick, please stay home except to receive medical care.
  • ●  If you are at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19, we encourage you to stay at home tothe greatest extent possible to decrease your chance of infection.TestingIf you meet any of the criteria listed below, we encourage you to be tested for COVID-19. You can call your healthcare provider or AppHealthCare. You should be tested if:
  • ●  You believe you have symptoms of COVID-19,
  • ●  You have no symptoms and you are at higher risk for severe illness (you are 65 or older, youhave an underlying health condition or chronic condition), or have been in close contact withsomeone who is known to have a positive result,
  • ●  You are someone working in a frontline role or essential business where social distancing is hardto maintain,
  • ●  You are a first responder, law enforcement officer, fire department staff member, or healthcarestaff member,
  • ●  You live in or work in a facility where social distancing is hard to maintain, like congregate living,healthcare facilities or home care.
  • ●  You are part of a historically marginalized population who may be at higher risk for exposure.
  • ●  You have attended protests, rallies, or other mass gatherings where you could have beenexposed to someone with COVID-19 or could have exposed others because it may have been difficult to practice social distancing.What should you do while waiting for test results? What if the test is negative or positive?Answers for those questions, including prevention measures and home care if someone is sick are included in NC DHHS guidance here .NC DHHS has tools for the public including a website to Check Symptoms and Find My Testing Place . AppHealthCare does not require someone to have symptoms to be tested.