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AppHealthCare Weekly COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County August 20, 2020

Situation Update for August 9 through August 15, 2020 – Received by Email Aug. 21 at 5:00 p.m.

As cases continue to increase for Watauga County, we are urging everyone in the community to help us slow the spread of this virus. 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.

“This pandemic has made it more apparent than ever that each person’s health is affected by the community as a whole and in order to slow the spread of this virus, it will take all of us. We recognize the benefit college students have within our local community and know they are an important part of our COVID-19 response effort. This virus is highly contagious and sometimes people can spread the virus without realizing it because they have mild or no symptoms at all. Now is not the time to be attending large gatherings and parties with large groups. We are depending on the community to support contact tracing efforts. 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 from this week:

  • 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. This week App State announced a cluster of cases associated with the football team. 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 as they started a new school year this week. We are continuing to 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.
  • Turn-around times for testing have improved with most tests resulting around 2-4 days.
  • We have posted 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 .
  • 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.

Outbreaks & Clusters

Data is provided for those outbreaks and clusters that are active and ongoing. 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. Additional information on the definitions of outbreaks and clusters is provided by the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services. The numbers of cases provided reflect the number of cases at the time of this report.

Setting Type Setting Name Cumulative Cases Total Cases

Nursing Home Glenbridge Health & Rehab

1 staff, 2 residents

Child Care Appalachian State University Child Development Center

4 staff, 6 children

This week App State announced a cluster of cases associated with the football team. 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. 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 the support 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 and enforcement