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Rep. Ray Russell’s May 6th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info


Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Town Hall
Join us Wednesday, 6-7:15 PM for a “Keep Boone Healthy” Town Hall Meeting. David Jackson, John Cooper, me, and others will be on the panel. You can register for the event at:
Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Monday evening, May 11, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 1,385,834. We are sure more people have the virus who have not been tested. Sadly, 81,795 people have died from coronavirus.
In North Carolina the number of people who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus is 15,273. Currently, 464 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. To date, 575 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus. Coronavirus has been confirmed in all North Carolina Counties except for one (Avery).
Today, the NC DHHS began publishing an estimate of how many people in NC are presumed to be recovered from Coronavirus. 9,115 are presumed to have recovered. For details on this report and how they arrive at this estimate, see https://files.nc.gov/ncdhhs/documents/files/covid-19/Weekly-COVID19-Patients-Presumed-to-be-Recovered.pdf.
The NC DHHS “Dashboard” tracks seven metrics used to monitor the spread of coronavirus as social distancing orders are relaxed. See https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-count.
Locally, 9 individuals have tested positive for coronavirus in Watauga County; 13 in Ashe County. During the past week, 5 new cases in the two counties are associated with the outbreak at Tyson facilities in Wilkes County.
In addition to the positive case count, AppHealthCare has added a count of individuals actively being monitored in Northwest North Carolina. This includes individuals who tested positive and those who are being monitored due to suspected exposure. In Ashe and Watauga County, a total of 23 people are currently being monitored by AppHealthCare. For details, see https://www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-information/.
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
Modified Stay-at-Home Order Phase I
Phase I of Governor Cooper’s plan for gradually easing social distancing rules began at 5 PM, Friday, March 8.
I don’t believe there’s a need to restate what’s in (or out) in Phase I as North Carolina begins the gradual process of relaxing social distancing guidelines. My newsletters and Town Halls last week were devoted to explaining Phase I. If you have questions:
NC House Returns to Session Next Week
This week, NC House committees begin meeting again remotely. Our primary work is to continue work that began in April, responding to the Covid-19 Pandemic. We will be back in session next week.
The State Legislature needs address a number of relief issues that were not addressed in the first round of bills, but I hope we also address the following:
  • Preparing for the November Election
By allocating $2 million in state money, North Carolina can tap $11 million in federal money. This is vitally needed to make sure we do not experience the problems seen in Wisconsin a few weeks ago.
I am frequently asked about voting by mail. North Carolina already has voting by mail—Absentee Ballots. Anyone can already request an absentee ballot for any reason. But we can make changes to the existing law to make it easier for voters to obtain a ballot and make it easier to fill out/mail the ballot. I’m told a bipartisan bill is in the works. Hopefully, we will see it next week.
Our election officers have much work to do before November 3. We must pass a bill so they can get to work and have the resources to do the job of ensuring a safe, secure election and make it easier for voters to vote.
  • Protect Workers. Employees should not have to choose between going to work sick or providing for their family. Nor should they be required to work in unsafe conditions. Right now North Carolina is not doing enough to guarantee either.
  • Make Healthcare More Accessible and Affordable. This pandemic has exposed what most of us have known for a long time… Rural healthcare and hospitals are in trouble. Medicaid Expansion would be the right next step to get resources to our rural hospitals.
  • Strengthening the unemployment safety net. North Carolina, during the past seven years, greatly weakened the state’s unemployment system. The state ranks dead last in the country in resources for the unemployed. We must restore that system.
  • Broadband Expansion. Access to high speed internet is no longer optional for participation in education and economic activity. It’s a civil rights issue. Our children, college students, workers, farmers, small businesses, etc. should have access to broadband regardless of their home address.
Covid-19 Fraud         
Last week, Attorney General Josh Stein alerted North Carolinians about a variety of scams related to Covid-19. Many of these target elderly citizens. The North Carolina Department of Justice keeps a list of these scams at https://ncdoj.gov/covid19/.
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://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