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Rep. Ray Russell’s April 14th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

Virtual Town Hall
Please join me Wednesday at 7:00 PM for a Facebook Live Town Hall (https://www.facebook.com/RayRussellforNC/). I will be answering your questions submitted by email (Ray.Russell@ncleg.net) as well as ones posted in the comment section live.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you and answering your questions!
Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Tuesday afternoon, April 14, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 611,156. We are sure more people have the virus who have not been tested. Sadly, 25,924 people have died from coronavirus. More people died in the past 24 hours from coronavirus (2284) than during any other day in this emergency.
In North Carolina the number of people who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus is 5,024. Currently, 418 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. To date, 108 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus.
Eight Watauga County residents have tested positive for coronavirus. Four Ashe County residents have tested positive. So far, every person in Ashe and Watauga County who tested positive had either traveled outside the counties or was in contact with a person known to have the virus.
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
House COVID-19 Committee on Health Care
The House COVID-19 Committee on Health Care met today to hear presentations and recommendations from several agencies in the medical and behavioral health communities. Read more here: https://www.ncleg.gov/Committees/CommitteeInfo/House/199#Health%20Care%20Working%20Group4-14-2020
Part of the presentation was on the effects COVID-19 is having on rural hospitals across North Carolina. Dr. Roxie Wells, president of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital, outlined several concerns rural hospitals are facing.
Rural hospitals collectively were struggling before coronavirus arrived in the U. S. An analysis in January showed that 1 In 4 rural hospitals were at risk of closing. (See https://www.forbes.com/sites/claryestes/2020/02/24/1-4-rural-hospitals-are-at-risk-of-closure-and-the-problem-is-getting-worse/#3de8f2a81bc0.) The primary problem has been the large number of people in rural areas with no access to health insurance.
Dr. Wells explained that rural hospitals in NC have lost collectively $145 million per month in revenue because elective procedures have been suspended to provide beds for a surge in coronavirus patients.
However, the Federal CARES Act provided $100 Billion in new funding for public heath, social services, and rural hospitals. They are also helped by temporary changes to Medicare and Medicaid funding.
North Carolina must provide more support for public heath offices for the long-term so they can continue coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
House COVID-19 Committee on Economic Support
The House COVID-19 Committee on met today to consider at three bills:
  • The Golden Leaf Foundation has already provided $15 million in emergency small business loans to. One bill under consideration would make an additional $25 million to the Golden Leaf Foundation for additional small business loans. The primary intent of these loans is as a bridge loan until federal assistance is received by a business. The Golden Leaf loans must be paid back in 54 months with interest.
  • A second bill would accomplish two items. First, it aligns state tax deadlines to the delayed federal tax deadlines and waive any interest or late penalties for businesses and individuals. Second, it conforms unemployment benefits to what has been done temporarily by the Governor’s Executive Orders and the federal CARES Act.
  • A third bill provides $1 million in emergency assistance for commercial fishermen.
House COVID-19 Committee on Continuity of State Ops
The House COVID-19 Committee on Continuity of State Operations met to finalize a list of temporary changes to North Carolina law needed because of social distancing and coronavirus. These are important but technical legal issues related to marriage licenses, notarizing documents, government meetings and open meeting laws, business registrations, DMV licenses/inspections/fees, absentee ballots, a wide range of court proceedings, regulatory and relief for a variety of permit applications. The legislature is committed to resolving all these issues in a bipartisan manner. For details of items considered, see https://www.ncleg.gov/documentsites/committees/house2019-199/Continuity%20of%20State%20Operations%20Working%20Group/4-14-20/2.%20Issues%20Impacting%20Governmental%20Operations_2020_04-14.pdf
State Employees and Coronavirus
The North Carolina Office of State Human Resources released a coronavirus FAQ for state employees. See https://oshr.nc.gov/coronavirus.
More Information
If you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus and live in Watauga County:
1) Call AppHealthCare at 828-264-4995 or (828) 795-1970 during regular business hours,
2) Visit https://apprhs.org/covid19-screening/ online and follow screening instructions, or
3) Call your primary care doctor.
If you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus and live in Ashe County call AppHealthCare at 336-246-9449 or call your primary care doctor.
Our public heath office, AppHealthCare, is the primary local source of information about coronavirus. See https://www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-information/
For more information from our hospitals, see Appalachian Regional’s website at https://apprhs.org/COVID19/ or 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 .Also, North Carolina coronavirus updates are available by calling 888.892.1162 or by texting COVIDNC to 898211