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Rep. Ray Russell’s March 19th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

This is Representative Ray Russell’s daily newsletter on coronavirus. It is a summary of news relevant specifically to Northwest North Carolina.
Spread of Coronavirus
Today, the first instance of “community spread” of coronavirus within North Carolina was reported. A person in Wilson County tested positive who had no known contact with any person with the virus. All previous cases could be traced to a known contact with someone with the virus or from travel outside the country. We knew this would happen eventually, but this event signals a new milestone in the spread of the disease and in how public health professionals will combat it.
Across the United States, as of Thursday afternoon, March 19, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 13,060. Of those, 165 people have died. The rate of growth in confirmed cases and death is increasing.
As of Thursday afternoon, March 19, North Carolina has 126 cases of coronavirus. The increase today NC today is an alarming 72%. Thankfully, no one in North Carolina has died from coronavirus.
Two cases of coronavirus have been reported in Watauga County. Ashe County has no reported cases of coronavirus.
As of 10 AM, 2,505 tests for coronavirus have been completed in North Carolina and many more are in process.
Some DMV Offices Have Closed
In Ashe and Watauga Counties the License Plate Agencies are open for regular hours. However, local Driver License Offices are closed for walk-in services. We are encouraged to handle license renewals, vehicle registrations, etc. online. See https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/offices-services/locate-dmv-office/Pages/dmv-offices-closed.aspx or call the DMV Call Center at 919-715-7000 for details.
Fraud or Price Gouging
Taking unfair advantage of people in crisis is unthinkable, but unfortunately it happens. Scams are out there from a variety of sources. Attorney General Josh Stein and the NC Department of Justice have a guide for spotting scams. See https://ncdoj.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/AttorneyGeneralStein_CoronavirusScamsGuide.pdf
Wednesday, someone in the district told me about exorbitant prices for products related to cleaning and safety. Price-gouging is illegal. You can report price-gouging at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging/.
Currently there are no CDC advisories regarding travel within the United States. However, today the CDC advised travelers today to defer all cruise travel, and the US State Department recommends Americans to refrain from all travel abroad. The department raised its global travel advisory to level four, the top-tier warning, usually reserved for nations with war zones or beset by serious disruptions. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/travel-advisory-alert-global-level-4-health-advisory-issue.html for further details.
Helping People
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.
Yesterday, I focused on helping restaurants, today let’s focus on how we can help people who have suddenly lost jobs. Here are examples of what’s being done already.
  • Wine to Water, Ransom Pub, and Vincent Properties are providing “Care Boxes” filled with 40 wholesome meals, including fruits and vegetables. Today, they delivered 300 Care Box vouchers; tomorrow they plan to deliver 400. For distribution details and volunteer opportunities, email care.box40@gmail.com. To make a donation go to https://give.winetowater.org/CAREBOX
  • Our energy companies are stepping to the plate to help people. Blue Ridge Energy has suspended disconnections for late or non-payment, waved emergency delivery fees for propane, and taken other action to assist customers. Soon, they will be announcing an even larger program for crisis assistance. See https://www.blueridgeenergy.com/news-center/coronavirus for details. Similarly, New River Light and Power will work with any customer struggling to pay their power bill. Call New River Light and Power at (828) 264-3671 for assistance.
  • High Country United Way has created a “Covid-19 Relief Fund for nonprofits” to supply emergency funds to local nonprofit agencies across the High Country. See https://www.highcountryunitedway.org/covid-19fund for details.
I only have room for three examples of help flowing through our communities. Many more are at work. Hopefully this list will inspire more people to find ways to help.
All of us must work together to support our friends through this difficult time.
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 screening instructions.
If you believe you have symptoms of Coronavirus and live in Ashe County call AppHealthCare at 336-246-9449.
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
Nationally, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers updates at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.