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AppHealthCare: Planning Underway for Phased Reopening of Watauga County

As the country and North Carolina present plans for reopening, Watauga County is actively planning and determining what this will mean for our community locally.

Last week, Governor Cooper extended the Stay at Home order through May 8th and outlined a plan, based on data, to ease restrictions as we reopen our state. This plan relies heavily on data so that each step is informed and strategic.

Watauga County and its municipalities continue to take proactive measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the impact. Short-term rental suspension and the 14-day self-quarantine for residents arriving to the county from other areas remains in place. Watauga County requests individuals returning to the area have all medicines, prescriptions and food needed to abide by the 14-day self-quarantine order. This is to ensure individuals have all the necessities they need and do not need to leave their residence for those items. After the 14-day quarantine is met and there are no signs of illness, individuals are free to engage in activities authorized by the Governor’s order.

“We know it is important to reopen our local economy and get people back to work. This will be a phased approach and done in close partnership with AppHealthCare and other stakeholders and agencies. Watauga County’s reopening will be in step with North Carolina’s phased approach and will be done in incremental steps so that we protect our community’s health. The Watauga County Board of Commissioners will be reviewing this plan during their next scheduled meeting on May 5 at 8:30am. We understand this has been a stressful time and know this has taken a toll on all of our citizens and residents. We thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of this virus,” stated Deron Geouque, County Manager.

There are many stakeholders and agencies working together to ensure reopening is informed and data driven and that we are following the guidance from Governor Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services. The Governor’s plan for Phase 2 will “allow limited opening of restaurants, bars and other businesses that can follow strict safety protocols (reduced capacity).” We will continue to work closely with these businesses and coordinate and support them throughout this process.

“Healthy dialogue has been an extremely important part of this process from the start. AppHealthCare has been proactive in providing detailed community messaging about steps we needed to take to flatten the curve. At the same time, they have shown strong support for creating responsible programs and ideas intended to allow for safe interaction between our citizens and local businesses. Watauga County has engaged all of our municipalities and helped lead thoughtful dialogue around the different facets of our community that have been impacted by the business and lifestyle interruptions we have faced. These discussions have not only helped bring a variety of issues and ideas to the table, but the collaboration between AppHealthCare, Watauga County, and our municipalities have ensured that every corner of our county, the interests of our citizens, and the economic impacts facing businesses are being discussed together. I feel we will have a stronger plan moving toward the phased reopening because our local leadership has been willing to engage voices, listen, and show the necessary leadership needed to keep our community healthy,” stated David Jackson, President & CEO, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.

“As we begin to reopen parts of our community and ease restrictions in the coming weeks and months, it will be important to be thoughtful in our approach. The sacrifices that have been made by everyone in our community has helped slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. However, there is still work to be done and careful consideration and action is needed to continue that trend and lessen the impact in our community. As we reopen, we do expect to test more, which would then likely lead to more confirmed cases,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Practice social distancing which means avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people, keeping 6 feet or more between you and others and remaining at home to the greatest extent possible
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Cover your cough or sneeze
  • Keep distance from others who are sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in common areas like doorknobs, remotes, lightswitches, tables and handles
  • Wear cloth mask or face covering when out in public where you may be around people like grocery stores or pharmacies – more information about face coverings can be found on the AppHealthCare website. 

COVID-19 Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. According to the CDC, people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of reported symptoms.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell 

People at high risk include anyone who:

  • Is 65 years of age or older
  • Lives in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Has a high-risk condition that includes:

○        Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma

○        Heart disease with complications

○        Compromised immune system

○        Severe obesity – body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher

○        Other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease

People who are at high risk should stay home to the greatest extent possible to decrease the chance of infection.

During this time, it is important to manage your overall health. There are resources available if you need to reduce anxiety or stress, are experiencing suicidal thoughts, need to better manage chronic conditions and more. Visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website.

If you have a medical emergency, please call 911 immediately.

AppHealthCare is available and on-call 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. To reach us, call (828) 264-4995 anytime and follow the prompts. AppHealthCare has set up a COVID-19 hotline at 1+ (828) 795-1970 for information during regular business hours. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 in our community and will work to keep the public informed. Please visit our website for more information – www.AppHealthCare.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Questions from agencies requesting support on COVID-19 response, planning efforts, etc. can contact preparedness@apphealth.com.

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

North Carolina resources can be found on the Division of Public Health website at ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. To view the case count for North Carolina, including a county map, please visit the NC DHHS website here.

A COVID-19 toll free helpline has been set up to answer general, non-emergent questions at 1-866-462-3821. To submit questions online, go to www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”