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AppHeatCare COVID-19 Situation Updates for Watauga County for Week September 20-26

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

We are continuing to see increases in cases for COVID-19. These continued increases are concerning given that we are approaching flu season and will have both viruses circulating at the same time.

For the week of September 20-26 (graphs below), increases occurred in cumulative, active and quarantine cases. These increases mean we must continue doing the things we know slow the spread of this virus. 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. “The continued increases we are seeing for Watauga County are concerning. We urge everyone to take this virus seriously and take actions to slow the spread. 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. Continue practicing the 3Ws, avoid large gatherings, maintain good hygiene and cleaning practices, stay home when sick and get a flu vaccine,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.

Key Points

● You may notice a discrepancy between our local data dashboard and the NC Department of Health & Human Services data dashboard . We have to manually enter antigen test results and due to the large increase in antigen tests being performed in Watauga County, there is a delay in those results showing up on the state database.

● 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 DHHS now provides data on testing turnaround times. This data is updated daily and can be found here .

● 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 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.  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 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 each Wednesday and Saturday in October. 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. October dates for additional pop-up testing events are currently being confirmed by the university. 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

Demographic Data from NC DHHS as of October 2nd

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 on the AppHealthCare dashboard , as the data below is past data trended.

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.