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Rep. Ray Russell’s April 1st Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Wednesday evening, April 1, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 214,639. Of those, 5099 people have died. The number of people with the virus and the number of deaths continue to grow at an exponential rate, doubling every 2.5 to 3 days.
I have been asked, “How many people have recovered?” I know of no accurate data on that point. We know that over 95% of people with the virus recover, most within 2 weeks. If recovery were the issue, we would not be in the mess we’re in. The issue is how many hospitalizations, ICU visits, and deaths occur.
In North Carolina the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 1717. Currently, 209 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. Sadly, 15 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus.
Seven Watauga County residents have tested positive for coronavirus. To date, all individuals who tested positive had a travel history or contracted the virus from a person known to have the virus. Ashe County has no reported cases of coronavirus. Nearby, Wilkes County reported that one of its residents died yesterday of coronavirus.
Important note: Because we have transitioned to the Mitigation Phase of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, I wonder if data for “confirmed cases” is meaningful data. Most people who report symptoms are no longer being tested; so, the “confirmed positive” count is no longer a useful measure of the spread of the virus.
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
Unemployment Insurance Claims
Many of you have reached out to me concerning your unemployment claims. I am sorry for the frustration you have reaching the Division of Employment Security (DES).
The Head of IT at DES says the volume of claims is overwhelming, but they are adding servers to increase capacity daily. Additionally, they have staffed an additional call center with 50 attendants. 300,000 claims were processed last week which is about the number processed in a typical year.
Here are some tips:
  1. Go slowly and follow the prompts carefully. A inaccurate response made in haste it is likely to result in being locked out of the system inadvertently.
  2.  The two phone new call center numbers are:
For employers: 866-278-3822
For those unemployed: 888-737-0259
I will continue to post updates and additional information as I receive it.
Federal CARES Act Unemployment Information
The federal CARES Act, which was passed last week by Congress, provides for three temporary unemployment compensation programs due to COVID-19:
  • · Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
  • · Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
  • · Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The North Carolina Division of Employment Security is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement these programs. Once they receive the final guidance, benefit should start being paid in about two weeks.
For more information about the three programs under the CARES Act and to see if you might be eligible, go to the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12DSONt1-EZ3eX46x2KwCpiqMlEYYa51R
The link also provides information from the NC Division of Employment Security on applying for state unemployment benefits and what to expect.
Here’s a staggering data point from today’s numerous conference calls… The Brookings Institute estimates that in the coming months 20 million Americans will lose jobs. We will need every bit of assistance in the CARES Act and more.
Blood Donation Needs are Critical
With thousands of blood drives cancelled due to school and workplace closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Cross is in dire need of blood and platelet donations. A visit to the local donation center could be a life-saving step you take for someone else.
For more information about donating and to request a local appointment visit this website: https://www.redcross.org/local/north-carolina/greater-carolinas.html
More Information
If you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus and live in Watauga County:
1) Call AppHealthCare at 828-264-4995,
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