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AppHealthCare COVID-19 Situation Updates for Watauga County

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

Watauga County continues to see an increase in new cases. Even though we continue to not see a large spike in cases, the number of newly identified and active cases remains higher than what we want to see. Our case trends have continued to increase with the largest percentage of cases in the 18-24 old age group. We are continuing to see the same trend with cases mostly exposed due to close contact with others through living or working closely with others or attending social gatherings.

“As we move into Phase 2.5 and additional restrictions are eased, we continue to encourage everyone to practice the 3Ws, avoid large gatherings and maintain good hygiene practices. Wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth anytime you will be around others who are not in your household or living space, wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer and wait at least 6 feet from others. This virus is highly contagious and sometimes people can spread the virus without realizing it because they have mild or no symptoms at all. These actions help protect everyone in our community and helps make sure we have the healthcare system capacity that we all depend on,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.

Key Points

  • ●  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.
  • ●  Our case trends have continued to increase with the largest percentage of cases in the 18-24 old age group.
  • ●  We are continuing to work closely with our University partners and provide public health guidance and recommendations to ensure our response efforts are coordinated. Every Monday through Friday, we meet with App State to review confirmed cases and outline a plan of action to care for those students who need to be in isolation or quarantine. There are protocols in place to continue surveillance of cases to identify response testing needed. Collaboration continues on the weekends between App State and the AppHealthCare case investigation team. App State has a dedicated website that highlights guidance, regular updates and data for the Appalachian community.
  • ●  We are continuing to work with Watauga County Schools and provide public health information to inform their decisions about school operations.
  • ●  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.
  • ●  Turnaround times for testing have improved with most tests resulting around 2-4 days. NC DHHSnow provides data on testing turnaround times. This data is updated daily and can be foundhere .
  • ●  We have posted additional positions to assist with COVID-19 response efforts to respond to theincreased demand due to increased cases. More information about those positions can be foundhere .
  • ●  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 & Clusters

    Data is provided for outbreaks and clusters that are active and ongoing. The number of cases are current at the release of this report. As we conduct outbreak investigations, the numbers included in this report are subject to change.

    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.

    This week, App State announced a cluster of cases among wrestling team members. App State has reported that wrestling practice is not currently occurring. The last positive case result was 9/2/2020. The cluster of cases associated with the football team remains active. The last positive case result was 8/20/2020.

Clusters are considered active until two incubation periods, or a period of 28 days, with no new cases have occurred with no new positive results.

By proactively testing these athletes, App State Athletics has been able to identify opportunities for isolating positive cases and quarantining others who have been exposed. Routine testing continues through App State Athletics to continue identifying early any positive cases. In addition, App State Student Health Services provides testing for students each weekday. The university is offering free COVID-19 tests for App State students, faculty and staff at a “pop-up” testing events on:

Saturday, Sep. 5
Thursday, Sep. 10
Saturday, Sep. 12
Saturday, Sep. 19
Saturday, Sep. 26

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 Banner 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 public health staff
  • ●  Ongoing messaging continues from App State to campus about prevention measures andenforcement