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Rep. Ray Russell Announces Daily Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

Daily Briefing on Coronavirus for Northwest North Carolina

This is the first installment of what will become a daily newsletter from Representative Ray Russell on coronavirus. Each weekday, I will glean news that I believe has direct impact on Northwest North Carolina. This will be shared by email and on social media.

Please share this email with friends you think will be interested in receiving it. If this email was forwarded to you and you want to sign up for the newsletter, email Ray.Russell@ncleg.net and request to be included in the email list.

Spread of Coronavirus

Across the United States, as of Tuesday afternoon, March 17, there have been 5,303 confirmed in the Unites States, and 96 patients have died. Cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in every state except West Virginia.

In North Carolina, as of 2 PM Tuesday afternoon, March 17, NC DHHS reported 30 confirmed cases of coronavirus; however, late this afternoon Duke University announced 15 individuals who have been travelling overseas have tested positive for the virus. Thankfully, no one in North Carolina has died from coronavirus.

Watauga County has one confirmed case of coronavirus; Ashe has no reported cases.

In North Carolina 1,100 people have been tested for coronavirus and thousands more are currently being processed.

Restaurants and Bars Limited to Takeout and Delivery Operations

In a news conference today (March 17, 2020) Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new executive order in response to COVID-19 that closes restaurants and bars for dine-in customers but allows them to continue takeout and delivery orders. A copy of the Executive Order can be found at https://governor.nc.gov/documents/executive-order-no-118.

Grocery stores and pharmacies remain open.

During the news conference, Gov. Cooper emphasized that public gatherings of more than 50 people are discouraged, and public gatherings of more than 100 people are banned by an earlier executive order. These restrictions on public gatherings include festivals, church services, funerals, and weddings.

Expansion of Unemployment Insurance

This new executive order also includes an expansion of unemployment insurance to help North Carolina workers affected by COVID-19.

“We know this [closing dine-in operations] will be a hardship on owners, on customers, and on the workers involved,” Gov. Cooper said. “We know this will cost people their jobs, but we are doing all we can to alleviate problems however we can. We will work tirelessly and make the very best decisions we can.”

Governor Cooper lifted the following rules for unemployment benefits:

  • The one-week waiting period for benefits has been suspended.
  • People won’t be required to look for another job to obtain benefits.
  • Workers who have had their hours cut back can seek benefits.
  • People can apply online or over the phone and don’t need an in-person interview.
  • Employers won’t be held responsible for unemployment payments for anyone seeking benefits because of the outbreak.

To apply for unemployment benefits, individuals can:

Community Colleges Moving to Online Instruction

Community colleges across North Carolina have extended Spring Break, canceled classes and begun to transition their instruction to an online format.

NC Community Colleges will pause face-to-face instruction through the end of the month. Most classes in the Career and College Promise program will also shift to online delivery in serving high school students.

No UNC Students in Dorms

The UNC System announced today that all universities across the state will make changes to keep students off campus for the Spring 2020 semester, including forcing students out of their dorms.

This directive includes students at Appalachian State University in Boone. Students living in university housing will be instructed to remain at, or return to, their permanent residences unless granted an exception by the institution.

More Information

If you believe you have symptoms of Coronavirus, call AppHealthCare at 336-246-9449 (Ashe County) or 828-264-4995 (Watauga County).

Our hospitals: See Appalachian Regional’s website at https://apprhs.org/COVID19/ and Ashe Memorial Hospital’s website at https://www.ashememorial.org/ for their updates.

For information specific to North Carolina, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) provides the latest information on COVID-19 at https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-response-north-carolina

Nationally, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers updates at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.