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Rep. Ray Russell’s March 28th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Saturday afternoon, March 28, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 123,271. Of those, 2202 people have died. The number of people with the virus and the number of deaths continue to grow at an exponential rate, doubling every 2.5 to 3 days. More people have contracted coronavirus in the United States than in any other country in the world.
In North Carolina the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus was reported by NC DHHS this morning at 935; however, additional cases have been reported this afternoon to push the total over 1000. Currently, 87 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. Sadly, 4 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus. Four North Carolinians have died from coronavirus.
Five Watauga County residents have tested positive for coronavirus. Today, Appalachian State announced that the fifth individual was an App State student who is a resident of Watauga County. To date, all individuals who tested positive had a travel history or contracted the virus from a person known to have the virus. Ashe County has no reported cases of coronavirus.
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
Virtual Town Hall Tuesday
Tuesday at 7 PM, I will conduct a live Virtual Town Hall Meeting. Monday’s newsletter will have details about how to watch the event and send your questions.
The Stay at Home Order
This newsletter will not repeat a summary of the Stay at Home Order; however, you can access that summary at https://www.facebook.com/RayRussellforNC/posts/2750920805018495
or see the full executive order at
Legislative Conference Call with Governor Cooper
Governor Roy Cooper, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NC DHHS, and other conducted a conference call with legislators this afternoon.
Governor Cooper opened the call with goals of the North Carolina’s coronavirus effort:
  1. Treat the sick and save lives.
  2. Slow the spread and flatten the curve (the rate of infection). 
  3. Mitigate the economic impact on people who have lost income and jobs.
Related to treating the sick and saving lives, the Governor expressed frustration on the availability of medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and ventilators. All are in incredibly short supply across the country, and states are being forced to compete with each other for that scarcity of products. North Carolina has added available hospital beds and preserved beds by stopping elective surgeries. And North Carolina made a push to increase the availability of medical professionals and volunteers.
To slow the spread of the virus, Governor Cooper has issued a series of executive orders: the Stay at Home order, closed public schools, and urged people to practice safe behaviors (stay 6 feet apart, restricted crowds to no more than 10, wash hands frequently, and more).
Third, the economic impact is great. People are afraid of losing business and investments. Our citizens have lost jobs by the hundreds of thousands. Several programs have been rushed into place to assist business owners. Governor Cooper temporarily relaxed NC unemployment regulations to speed relief to the unemployed. (My office has a packet of information for businesses and non-profits with resources available along with information to file for unemployment (https://des.nc.gov/). If you want a copy, email Ray.Russell@ncleg.net.) Finally, all of us will depend on the federal government’s relief package that passed this week with $2 trillion in funding. Visit https://www.npr.org/2020/03/26/821457551/whats-inside-the-senate-s-2-trillion-coronavirus-aid-package for a good summary.
Science of Coronavirus
In the conference call, Dr. Cohen presented information about the science of coronavirus. Here were her points:
  • In Italy, 29% of people who tested positive for coronavirus had severe or critical illness. In China, it was 19%.
  • The CDC estimates that between February 12 and March 16, 21% – 31% of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the United States were hospitalized with 4% – 11% in intensive care.
  • While these early studies don’t give us the complete picture of the virus they are certainly extremely worrisome.
  • We are aggressively working to learn as much as possible about this virus across the country and here in North Carolina.
  • At the same time, we don’t have the luxury of time. We must act quickly based on what we do know to slow the spread of the virus.
What You Can Control
Finally, Dr. Cohen discussed what all of us can control. We may feel helpless as the pandemic unfolds around us, but we can take personal action. First, we can follow the guidance from North Carolina about how best NOT to get the virus. But additionally, we can make simple but powerful decisions about our health; so that if we do get the virus, we have the best chance to be a part of the 80% with only mild or moderate symptoms.
We know that those with underlying lung disease or uncontrolled chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease increase someone’s risk for severe symptoms from the virus. So…
  • If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to make sure it’s controlled.
  • If you have diabetes, make sure you are managing your blood sugar.
  • If you were thinking about quitting smoking, there has never been a better time. Do it now and importantly, don’t vape.
  • Make sure you are getting exercise and eat healthy.
State Parks Closed
Most NC State Parks have closed including all four in Ashe and Watauga Counties (Grandfather Mountain, Elk Knob, Mount Jefferson, and New River). See the following link for details about other parks: https://www.ncparks.gov/
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