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Rep. Ray Russell’s April 6th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Monday afternoon, April 6, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 364,059,. Of those, 10,792 people have died (averaging over 1000 people per day for the last six days). The number of people with the virus and the number of deaths are grow at an exponential rate, doubling every 3 to 4 days.
In North Carolina the number of people who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus is 2913. Currently, 270 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. Sadly, 43 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus.
Seven Watauga County residents have tested positive for coronavirus. One Ashe County resident has tested positive. To date, all individuals who tested positive had a travel history or contracted the virus from a person known to have the virus.
NC DHHS added this statement to their data page today:
*Laboratory-Confirmed Cases reflect cases that were tested and returned positive, including the NC State Laboratory of Public Health and reporting hospital and commercial labs. … Not all cases of COVID-19 are tested, so this does not represent the total number of people in North Carolina who have or had COVID-19.”
I’m not an epidemiologist, but I am a “numbers guy”. Here’s how I’m personally estimating the total number of people infected with coronavirus. I’m taking the total number of deaths and dividing by 2% (an estimate of the death-rate). I think that is a fair estimate of the actual total number of cases for about 4-7 days ago. If my idea is correct, that would be 539,000 cases in the U. S. and 2150 for North Carolina last Wednesday which we know is much higher than the reported positive tests.
But these are not “numbers”, they are people and families. Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
The Front Lines
The front lines in this battle against coronavirus are: our public health professionals (locally AppHealthCare), our hospitals and medical community (nurses, doctors, receptionists, etc.), law enforcement, and emergency management personnel. They are working night and day and through weekends to keep our community healthy and safe. To every one of you… “Thank you for your service.”
One story caught my eye (and broke my heart) last weekend. Deputy Bud Phouangphrachanh died from coronavirus one week ago, just two days after testing positive. He was a middle school resource officer and 14-year veteran of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department. “Deputy Bud” was married with five children. He immigrated to the U. S. after the Vietnam War from Laos. Read his story at https://www.newsobserver.com/news/state/north-carolina/article241779296.html
The best “Thank you” we can give to our Front Line Workers is to make good decisions and follow their guidance to keep our families healthy.
Unemployment Account Issues
In Friday’s newsletter, I shared notes from a Legislative update from the Department of Employment Security (DES). See https://www.facebook.com/RayRussellforNC/posts/2766125130164729 for an update on what they are doing to address the overwhelming volume of claims. They say checks will be flowing within two weeks. If you have questions, please check their FAQ first at https://des.nc.gov/need-help/faqs/unemployment-insurance-faqs.
Because of this backlog, many people are having trouble accessing the Division of Employment Security website to follow up on your unemployment application (https://des.nc.gov/apply-unemployment). If you are experiencing issues with your online account, password, or PIN, please email NCDESpasswordhelp@nccommerce.com for assistance.
Many questions are coming about the new CDC recommendation to wear cloth masks when you must leave the home. Here are some important points:
·     Most importantly, masks are NOT a substitute for Staying at Home. They are simply adding a layer or protection for when you must go out.
·     Masks do two things:
1) They keep you from touching your face which lowers the chance that you will get the virus.
2) As many as 25% of people who have the virus have no symptoms. If you happened to be one of those people, the mask would lower the chance that you give it to someone for whom the illness could be much more serious.
AppHealthCare released guidelines for the use of cloth masks. For details, see https://www.apphealthcare.com/ashe-county-guidance-for-use-of-cloth-masks-and-face-coverings/
Social Distancing Works!
State Legislators received an update by conference call from scientists studying effects of social distancing on controlling the pandemic and what would happen if all our efforts ended April 29 (when the “Stay at Home” order is currently set to expire). The results show:
·     If all efforts of social distancing ended April 29, we would have a 50/50 chance of exceeding hospital be capacity in North Carolina in June. Their forecast in this scenario is that 750,000 people would get coronavirus by the end of May, 2020. They also forecast a 60% chance in this case of exceeding the number of ICU beds available in the state.
·     If social distancing rules continued (or another set of rules that were equally effective) through May, the chance of exceeding hospital capacity falls to 20%, and the total number people with the virus would be limited to 250,000.
Another group of scientists in the state of Washington who are studying the spread of the virus is issuing reports every 2-3 days. Yesterday’s report showed that our efforts are saving lives. They slightly lowered their estimates of how many people will die from the virus nationwide and in North Carolina. However, the current average estimate for the country is still a staggering 82,000 deaths by August. See http://www.healthdata.org/covid/updates for details.
Remember these are forecasts of a virus that did not exist before November 2019. Scientists are learning more about the virus every day that impact these forecasts. Also (and I know a lot about “forecasting”), a forecast model is only as good as its initial data and its “understanding” of the virus. We have a long way to go before this crisis is over, and our focus should be to personally make good decisions day after day. Our decisions individually and collectively will have an impact on what happens during the next several months.
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