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 Thursdays each week for the Monday through Sunday of the prior week.
Situation Update for June 29 through July 5, 2020
We continue to see an increase in new cases for Watauga County. Over half (53%) of the confirmed Watauga County cases have occurred within the past two weeks. Among newly confirmed cases, there is not a single event or location to be the cause of the increase. There have been multiple incidences of exposure identified by people traveling, attending social gatherings or living or working in close proximity to others. However, community transmission is occurring locally which means there is not always an identified source of exposure for the cases. Once a positive case is identified, we highly encourage close contacts of that individual to get tested. This has led to more confirmed positives, including identifying individuals who have been asymptomatic.
“This virus remains with us and will for the foreseeable future so we encourage people to take actions to protect themselves and loved ones. Show your love for yourself and others and practice the 3Ws anytime you leave your house – wear a cloth face covering, wait 6 feet from others and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. If we all do these things, we have the power to slow the spread and lessen the impact in our community. This is an uncertain and stressful time for our community so we encourage everyone to take care of yourself, friends, family and neighbors. We have a strong community and will continue to rely on that strength to weather this storm,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.
Key points from this week:
- ● NC DHHS publishes county specific data for race, ethnicity, and gender. This report highlights the majority (80%) of Watauga County confirmed cases have been among those who are 49 years and younger. This data is updated regularly and can be found on NC DHHS’s website .
- ○ 45% of cases are between 18-24 years of age
- ○ 33% of cases are between 25-49 years of age
- ● We are continuing to work to increase testing opportunities for the community.
- ○ Planning for proactive staff testing continues in locations that have opted-in to that service. They include long term care facilities, shelters, local businesses with frontline workers, healthcare providers, law enforcement, and first responders, etc.
- ○ The local testing strategy includes the need to increase availability of testing sites and capacity, along with community education efforts to alert individuals about who should be tested. In addition, NC DHHS Find My Testing Place and Check My Symptoms provide linkages to local testing locations.
- ○ Response based testing also continues. These events are intended to focus on areaswhere there is potential for further spread, a cluster of cases, or an outbreak. Datagathered in the case investigation informs the need for response based testing.
- ○ A community based testing event is being actively planned for July to respond to thefact that cases have increased the past three weeks. This will provide additional data to further inform testing strategies in the future. AppHealthCare will be working with local partners to communicate and promote this event next week.
- ● PPE (personal protective equipment) levels remain stable.
- ● Turn-around times for testing is 2-7 days, with most tests resulting between 5-7 days. This isconcerning. We have noticed there is a delay in testing results which is likely due to increased volume at the labs and a shortage of the reagent (material) needed to process the results which has been outlined as a national challenge to overcome. NC DHHS continues to communicate about this challenge and plan for additional strategies to assist local communities.
- ● NC DHHS issued updated guidance that included steps for people after they receive a COVID-19 test. What should someone do while waiting for test results, what if the test is negative or positive, prevention measures and home care if someone is sick are included in this guidance and can be found here .
- ● Additional case investigators are being recruited currently to add to the team of case investigators and contact tracers in place.
- ● Outreach continues to be an important part of our collective community strategy to address COVID-19.
- ○ Additional signage has been placed downtown Boone to promote the Show Your Love campaign and the 3 W’s key messages with the partnership between the Boone Sunrise Rotary Club, Town of Boone, and Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.
- ○ A bulk order of reusable cloth face coverings have been ordered by AppHealthCare to be distributed in the community soon, and local municipalities report sourcing additional face masks and hand sanitizing stations for distribution.
- ○ Local long term care, assisted living and group home facilities have been invited to participate in a regional discussion about COVID-19, testing, prevention, and control measures next week. We hope this will provide an opportunity to provide additional best practices and peer learning.
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 A ppHealthCare 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.
Additional data can be found on AppHealthCare’s data dashboard. This data is updated each day by 8pm. You may notice a difference between our case count and the NC DHHS state database . Sometimes we get notification of positive results before they show up on the state dashboard. Also, individuals can
sometimes get “assigned” to our counties that actually do not reside in our counties. When that happens, we work with the state to get that data reassigned to the person’s place of residence.
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. The map by county and report can be found here .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.
- ● 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 with someone 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.NC DHHS has tools for the public including a website to Check Symptoms and another to Find My Testing Site that are located here . AppHealthCare does not require someone to have symptoms to be tested.