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

Virtual Town Hall Friday, May 8, 7 PM
With the change in the “Stay at Home” order, I know many of you have questions about the process. I’ll hold another Virtual Town Hall Friday, May 8, at 5 PM. The town hall will take the place of a newsletter. See https://www.facebook.com/RayRussellforNC/posts/2837420563035185 for the event. Even if you are not a Facebook user, you should be able to view the Town Hall at this link.
Spread of Coronavirus
Across the United States, as of Friday afternoon,May 1, the number of people who are confirmed to have coronavirus is 1,263,092. We are sure more people have the virus who have not been tested. Sadly, 74,799 people have died from coronavirus.
In North Carolina the number of people who are “laboratory-confirmed” to have coronavirus is 13,054. Currently, 516 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. To date, 493 North Carolinians have died from coronavirus. Coronavirus has been confirmed in all North Carolina Counties except for one (Avery).
NC DHHS revised it’s “Dashboard” to track the seven metrics they are following to plan the relaxing of social distancing orders. See https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-count. That Dashboard also now includes a count of positive tests for zip code (with some limitations based on number of people in the zip code and number of case in a zip code to protect personal privacy).
Our prayers are with all these people affected by coronavirus along with their families.
What Has Been Accomplished Since March 10?
We have been in the throes of the pandemic crisis for so long, it’s easy to lose our bearings and lose sight of the goals. So before discussing Phase I changes in the “Stay at Home” order, let’s recap.
On March 10, 2020, Governor Cooper declared a State of Emergency to coordinate the covid-19 response for North Carolina. On March 14, schools were closed and mass gatherings limited. Colleges and universities closed after Spring Break. On March 17, restaurants were limited to carry-out, drive-through, and delivery service. On March 30, the “Stay at Home” order went into effect, limiting citizens to essential travel, requiring work from home except for essential business, and requiring social distancing. That’s an abbreviated list. It seems everything has changed. Every person and business has been affected in serious ways. The cost has been immeasurable. It is undoubtedly the most pervasive crisis of my lifetime.
Since then in North Carolina, over 13,000 have tested positive for covid-19; however, many more people have contracted the virus. Almost 500 people have died. 80% of people who get the virus recover in 5-14 days with a mild to moderate illness. Roughly 20% need to be hospitalized, and somewhere around 2% of people die. (No one knows those percentages precisely because no one knows how many people actually have the virus.)
Covid-19 is a highly contagious virus. It is transmitted silently, usually by people who do not know they have it. There has been no proven treatment or and no cure. There is no vaccine.
What were the goals of this effort? The first goal was to keep as many North Carolinians as safe and healthy as possible. The second goal was to mitigate the tremendous economic cost of the pandemic. In North Carolina, we “flattened the curve” and avoided terrible scenes witnessed in other parts of our county and in other countries. Without any doubt, we have saved countless lives in the process.
But from the outset, public health officials knew that eradicating the virus in the foreseeable future was impossible. The virus WILL remain with us. But by “flattening the curve”, we accomplished the following: 1) separated the flu season from significant numbers of covid-19 patients, 2) bought time to make sure hospitals had the space and equipment needed to treat everyone needing hospital care, 3) allowed for a more robust testing and tracing system to be in place, 4) allowed public health officials to put procedures and rules in place to help protect the most vulnerable among us, and 5) it gave time to allow exponential growth to become a steady or declining spread of the virus along with the means for more reliably measuring that spread.
We are indebted to public health officials overseeing the process, but more importantly to the front-line workers who keep us safe every day—nurses, doctors, EMTs, law enforcement, and more.
Easing of Restrictions Begins Friday
Governor Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that Phase 1, easing of covid-19 restrictions, will begin this Friday, May 8, at 5 pm. The stay-at-home order remains in place with modifications.
This easing of restrictions eliminates the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses In Phase 1, most businesses can open as long as it limits capacity to 50 percent, screens workers for symptoms, enforces social distancing, and follows enhanced cleaning rules.
Businesses like hair salons, nail salons, gyms, theaters, bowling alleys and bars must remain closed. Restaurants continue with only takeout, drive-through, and delivery service.
Phase 1 expands the reasons people may leave home so they can visit any business that is open. However, people should remember the 3 W’s when they leave home: Wear a face covering, Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds, and Wait 6 feet apart from other people.
For a side-by-side comparison of what is changing in Phase 1, see https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/Phase-1-Side-by-Side.pdf
A “Frequently asked Question” list can be found at https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/FAQs-for-Phase-1-EO-FINAL.pdf
Graphs of the key indicators in North Carolina can be found at https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/NCDHHS_PhaseOne.pdf
This order is set to expire on May 22, but if our indicators are not in the right place, the governor will extend Phase 1. If the key indicators (spread of the virus, hospitalizations, deaths, and supplies) are steady or decline, Phase 2 of this easing of restrictions will commence in a couple weeks.
Visit the NC DHHS dashboard for more information about COVID-19 in NC at https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/covid-19-nc-case-count#individual-case-counting
We are entering a crucial period for North Carolina’s heath and economic future. We must work together for success in the coming weeks. There is no risk-free path from here, but we have the best people in the country leading the process. I have full confidence in them and in the heart of North Carolinians to follow their leadership.
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