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Rep. Ray Russell’s Last Scheduled Newsletter

The Last Scheduled Newsletter
Due to personnel changes in our office, this will be the last scheduled newsletter from Rep. Russell. However, the office will be open until Dec. 31, 2020, with staff available two days a week.
Based on what scientists and public health officials were telling us last March, I knew the coming months would bring unprecedented challenges and believed that that Watauga and Ashe County would need a reliable, regular, non-partisan source of information to help deal with these challenges. That’s why this newsletter starting coming–daily at first and eventually twice per week. So many of you have replied and expressed in person how much you appreciated the newsletter.
As I reflect on the past 8 months… I remember reporting the first case of Covid-19 in the district, the closing of schools, App State going to all online instruction, the Stay at Home Order, the first death in the district, etc. These have been trying times in every way.
We own so much to our friends and neighbors on the front lines of this pandemic:
  • Our Public Health Director in Ashe and Watauga Counties has earned our highest esteem. Jen Greene is a rock star, and this district will forever owe her a debt of gratitude.
But there are so many people on the front line working tirelessly to keep us healthy…
  • The entire AppHealthCare team has dedicated their lives to keep our community healthy.
  • Our hospitals, Appalachian Regional Health System and Ashe Memorial Hospital (administrators, doctors, nurses, and staff)
  • All of our health providers across the region
  • County emergency management teams
  • Law enforcement officers at every level
  • EMT professional and volunteer rescue squads
  • Our schools, App State, and community colleges, including administrators, teachers, and staff
  • The Departments of Social Services
  • Mental health professionals
  • The business community including our Chambers of Commerce and business owners who have worked to make their workplaces safe for employees and customers
  • The front-line retail and restaurant workers who serve the community while risking their own health and that of their families
I’m sure as soon as I click “send” on this email, I’ll think of a group I left out. Sorry, it’s not intentional. I don’t know everyone who is working so hard, but I have seen most of the process. It’s the largest community effort I have ever seen in my lifetime.
I also give a special thanks to my Legislative Assistant, Anna Meadows. We have worked side-by-side now for two years. Of all the decisions I have made in office, hiring her was my best decision of all. She gets up every morning with one purpose–to help people. She has helped thousands in Ashe and Watauga County. Thank you Anna!
Please honor the selfless work of all these people by doing what you can to keep our community healthy.
While a vaccine appears to be on the horizon (hopefully for most of us by the second quarter of 2021) and we now know so much more now about this horrible virus, we are in a more dangerous situation today than at any point in the pandemic. The holidays are coming and we have grown weary of staying apart from our friends and families. We risk another wave of infections.
Really, the most important message in this last scheduled newsletter is no different than it was in March. We can all limit our own risk and protect our friends and loved ones with four simple habits:
  1. Wear a mask when around people other than your nuclear family.
  2. Stay 6 feet from others.
  3. Wash your hands frequently and clean commonly used surfaces frequently.
  4. Avoid large gatherings.’
Thank you all for allowing me to serve you these last two years. Have a safe and healthy holiday season.
Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of this Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 24, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is now 12,823,638. And sadly, the number who have died now stands at 264,382.
According to the NCDHHS, the number of people in North Carolina who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus now stands at 342,294. Of those, 1,724 people are currently hospitalized. To date, 5,074 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus. NCDHHS estimates that as of Monday, 293,555 have recovered.
Much more data is available at the NC DHHS “Dashboard”. See https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard.
Locally, according to AppHealthCare, the cumulative number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Ashe County is now 873. The number of Watauga County residents who have tested positive is 2,222. Of these cases, 234 are currently active. Seventy-six people have been hospitalized since March. This figure includes Alleghany County, which is part of the local health department district, but is not separated out in the hospital count among counties. AppHealthCare reports that 425 residents in Ashe and Watauga counties are currently being monitored as possibly having Covid-19. Sadly, 16 residents from Ashe County and 35 from Watauga have died from Coronavirus.
Note: At times, discrepancies may exist been NC DHHS statistics and AppHealthCare statistics. AppHealthCare is generally the most up-to-date source for data on Covid-19 in Ashe and Watauga counties.
You can get more local data from the AppHealthCare Dashboard at https://www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-information/covid-19-data-dashboard/.
The active case count at App State is now 29 students and 10 employees. All are in isolation. A cumulative count of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 is 1,125 students, 66 employees, and 41 subcontractors (workers on campus who were not staff or faculty).
These figures are included in AppHealthCare’s daily updates, although it should be noted that students who physically reside in Ashe or Watauga County (in a dorm, apartment, or house) are counted in AppHealthCare’s totals. If a student physically resides in a neighboring county (and commutes from there to school), their data is counted in the home county. Likewise, employees who live outside Ashe and Watauga are counted in their home counties and not on the AppHealthCare website.
The site is updated regularly. Click on the link to view more details: https://www.appstate.edu/go/coronavirus/
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
Please follow public health officials’ guidance: Wear a face mask in public settings. Wait six feet apart. Wash your hands frequently. Also, as flu season is coming upon us, please get a flu shot to protect yourself and those around you.
Cooper: ‘We Are in Danger;’ Mask Requirements Tighten
Gov. Roy Cooper reinforced statewide coronavirus restrictions on Monday as a growing number of North Carolina counties are considered hotspots for viral spread.
Less than a week after rolling out a county alert system to illustrate where the virus was spreading fastest, the number of counties in the red zone has doubled from 10 to 20. The number in the orange zone with substantial spread grew from 43 to 46.
No-Cost Community Testing Sites Available
Today, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is offering more than 120 no-cost COVID-19 community testing events, including new locations in partnership with retailers to help North Carolinians protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities as they prepare for Thanksgiving. 
Local no-cost testing for District 93 will occur at Appalachian District Health Department, 126 Poplar Grove Connector, Boone. Adults and children can get testing done at this site.
Dates and times:
8:30 am-5 pm
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24
  • Friday, Nov. 27
  • Saturday, Nov. 28
9:30 am-6:30 pm
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25
If You have Coronavirus Symptoms…
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.
More Information
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://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/. Also, North Carolina coronavirus updates are available by calling 888.892.1162 or by texting COVIDNC to 898211.
Get the App, Save Lives
You can now take advantage of a new NC DHHS app that will notify you if you have been in close contact with someone exposed to COVID-19. It’s called the “SlowCOVIDNC Exposure Notification App”.
For more information and to download the App go to this site: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc