1000 x 90

Rep. Ray Russell’s April 9th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

Spread of Coronavirus

Across the United States, as of Thursday afternoon, April 9, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 466,969. We are sure more people have the virus who have not been tested. Sadly, 16,632 people have died from coronavirus. For the third day in a row, almost 2000 people died in the United States due to coronavirus.

In North Carolina the number of people who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus is 3,823. Currently, 398 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. To date, 75 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus.

Seven Watauga County residents have tested positive for coronavirus. Three Ashe County residents have tested positive.

Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.

Executive Order 131

Late this afternoon, Governor Cooper announced a new Executive Order with new rules for:

1.   Essential Retail Stores including:

·       Stores must limit the number of customers to no more than 20% of the building’s fire capacity.

·       6 Foot markers must be marked at checkouts and in other areas where customers may congregate.

·       Routines for cleaning

·       Establishing 1-way traffic in aisles

Additionally, other recommendations include:

·       Employees use cloth face coverings

·       Hand sanitizer at entry and exit points

·       Shopping times for seniors

2.   Expediting Unemployment Claims by allowing employers to file for employees.

3.   Strengthening rules for Long-term Care Facilities. Among other rules, Long-Term Care Facilities are now prohibited from group dining and having other group areas. Additionally, many previous recommendations for workers are now enforceable rules.

A helpful FAQ for these new rules can be found at https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO-131-FAQs.pdf and the Executive Order can be found at https://governor.nc.gov/documents/executive-order-no-131

Child Care and Coronavirus

Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 130 allows childcare facilities to remain open or to reopen to care for children of essential business workers, children who are receiving child welfare services, or children who are homeless or living in unstable or unsafe living arrangements. The primary assistance provided by North Carolina for the coronavirus emergency are:

·       Creating a system of emergency childcare centers for essential workers

·       Paying a subsidy to low income essential workers to assist with childcare costs.

·       Paying a bonus for childcare teachers and other staff during the emergency.

NC DHHS set up a Hotline for questions and assistance finding childcare for essential workers, 1-888-600-1685. For child care providers with questions, see https://ncchildcare.ncdhhs.gov/Whats-New/Coronavirus-Information-for-Child-Care

Unemployment Information

I know many of you are anxious about receiving your unemployment compensation or filing for it, so here’s some noteworthy news. The NC Division of Employment Security (DES) reported today that 100 additional staffers have been trained and are currently taking calls or working on application documents. DES has also posted temporary job listings for 35 additional employees. Two third-party call centers have deployed staff to assist DES.

I am including a chart to illustrate what a massive challenge DES has. Before March 16, DES had staff and computing capacity to handle up to 3000 claims per week. In the last three weeks, they have received almost 500,000 claims. They are working night and day to resolve the “traffic jam” and understand how important it is to get checks flowing to unemployed workers. They are making significant progress, $40 million (over 150,000 payments) has been paid in the last three weeks to unemployed workers in NC.



If you have problems with account access, passwords, or PIN numbers, the best way to resolve the problem is to email NCDESpasswordhelp@nccommerce.com

For questions about filing claims, rules, and processing, I would NOT attempt to call until next week when the new call centers will be fully staffed. Many answers can be found at the DES COVID-19 FAQ page: https://des.nc.gov/need-help/covid-19-information/covid-19-information-individuals

Resources for employers and people who have lost jobs due to coronavirus can be found at https://des.nc.gov/need-help/covid-19-nc-unemployment-insurance-information

NC House Healthcare Workgroup Meeting

The Select Committee on COVID-19 Healthcare Workgroup met today to receive briefings on how the virus is affecting three critical areas that were already hurting prior to the virus break out in North Carolina.

·        NC Partnership for Children presented information outlining current challenges facing child care centers.

·       The NC Coalition on Aging presented information on the wide-ranging effects of crisis on North Carolina’s aging population and services.

·       The NC Association of EMS Administrators presented information about the function and needs of first responders during this crisis.

If you are interested in any of these topics, details are available in committee notes at https://www.ncleg.gov/Committees/CommitteeInfo/HouseSelect/199#Health%20Care%20Working%20Group4-09-2020

Public School Legislative Recommendations

The House Covid-19 Education Workgroup met today to hear recommendations for legislative changed needed to address school issues related to graduation, school and employee evaluations, teacher licensure, and educator preparations programs. These are technical matters but if you are interested, committee notes are available at https://www.ncleg.gov/Committees/CommitteeInfo/HouseSelect/199#Education%20Working%20GroupApril%209,%202020

Vehicle Inspections and Registrations

Car and truck owners don’t have to worry about getting annual safety inspections or vehicle registrations during the coronavirus outbreak. The Legislature is committed to suspending vehicle inspections and extending registrations deadlines once we are in session. This should be enacted by the end of April. See https://www.newsobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article241882931.html

Recommendations for Voting Procedures

The State Board of Elections made a number of recommendations to the Legislature Tuesday. Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell asked lawmakers to consider 15 changes to the state’s elections during the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Continuity of State meeting. Federal assistance is coming to assist preparation for the November election; $14 million from a Help America Vote Act and over $13 million from the CARES Act. Read more: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article241861541.html

Blowing Rock Business Grants Available

The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and The Village Foundation are pleased to announce the creation of the Rock United Relief Fund. This fund is dedicated solely to helping our businesses survive the impacts of COVID-19

Starting immediately, small businesses located in Blowing Rock can apply for Business Relief Grants. To apply, visit www.LoveBlowingRock.com or The Village Foundation website at www.VillageFoundationofBR.org. Send questions to VillageFoundation@BlowingRock.com or call 828-414-2888.

Contributions to the Rock United Relief Fund should be made to The Village Foundation and mailed to the Rock United Relief Fund, c/o The Village Foundation of Blowing Rock, PO Box 2716, Blowing Rock, NC 28605. Donations can also be made at https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/rock-united-relief-fund.

For more information on the programs, contact the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce at (828) 295-7851 or hardince@blowingrock.com

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