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Rep. Ray Russell’s March 18th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

This is the Wednesday, March 18, 2020 edition of Representative Ray Russell’s daily newsletter on coronavirus. It is a summary of news relevant specifically to Northwest North Carolina.
Please forward this email to friends you think will be interested in receiving the newsletter. If this email was forwarded to you and you want to sign up for the newsletter, email Ray.Russell@ncleg.net and request to be included in the email list.
Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Wednesday afternoon, March 18, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 7,324. Of those, 115 people have died. Nationally, growth rate continues at an alarming 30% per day.
As of Wednesday afternoon, March 18, North Carolina has 73 cases of coronavirus. Thankfully, no one in North Carolina has died from coronavirus. Officials believe more people have the virus, and that as more testing is available, more cases will be discovered.
Watauga County reported its second positive test for coronavirus today. Our prayers are with both individuals. Both people are in quarantine and recovering. The first individual contracted the virus during foreign travel. The second individual was exposed to a known positive case. It is important to note that the source of both cases can be traced to a specific known source, not from unattributable, general community contact. Ashe has no reported cases of coronavirus.
As of 10 AM, 1,850 tests for coronavirus have been completed in North Carolina and many more are in process.
Local Restaurants Taking a Big Hit. Let’s Help
Our tourism and hospitality industry are among the hardest hit in the country. Shops, parks, tourist destinations, hotels, and restaurants and their employees are facing massive monetary loses.
In coming newsletters, I’ll make suggestions for how to help them all, but will focus on restaurants today. Restaurants and bars closed yesterday indefinitely, and thousands of our friends and neighbors lost jobs. Governor Cooper eased restrictions and made it easier for people who lost jobs to secure unemployment compensation (see yesterday’s newsletter). But restaurant owners face rent, taxes, and other operational expenses with a unknown future.
Support our local restaurants by purchasing gift cards, ordering take-out, and scheduling delivery. They are hubs of local economy, and are the gathering places that make us “community”.
Below are lists of local business, hours of operations and the types of services they are providing.
·        From the Boone Chamber of Commerce – https://www.boonechamber.com/restaurantsandretail
·        From the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1wE9TWKCNUgNgpTWakX4ZvdCyYxeWEv2fxmaArScPW9c/
·        From the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce – https://www.facebook.com/AsheChamber/posts/10156759826116965 and
I hope landlords with work with restaurant business owners to find ways to ease their financial burden in the coming weeks. In the same spirit, State of North Carolina is working to push back filing dates for taxes and waive penalties.
All of us must work together to support our friends through this difficult time.
Ashe and Watauga County Schools Provide Food for Students
Dismissing schools puts so much hardship on children, families, and school employees. One of the greatest innovations in this difficult time are schools providing meals for kids. It’s happening across North Carolina!
More pick up locations in Ashe County will be available on Monday, March 23. For more information, call Martha Turner 336-246-7175 or email martha.turner@ashe.k12.nc.us
In Watauga County, Watauga County Schools Child Nutrition Staff are proving meals as well. Parents may pick up takeout meals at any of the designated sites. For details on the Watauga County Community Food Program see https://www.hcpress.com/news/watauga-county-schools-establishes-community-feeding-sites-across-the-county.html
More Information
If you believe you have symptoms of Coronavirus and live in Watauga County:
1)     Call AppHealthCare at 828-264-4995 or
2)     Visit https://apprhs.org/covid19-screening/ online and follow the free screening instructions.
If you believe you have symptoms of Coronavirus and live in Ashe County call AppHealthCare at 336-246-9449.
The public heath office, AppHealthCare, remains the primary source of information about coronavirus locally. 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
Nationally, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers updates at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.