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Stage IV Breast Cancer Tests Laneece Trivette’s Resilience, Strength and Faith

August 24, 2022 To say 2020 was challenging is an understatement. Among the many lessons learned that year, most people were reminded that life is precious and fragile. Laneece Trivette of Matney probably learned that lesson better than most that year. She also learned that she has a compassionate team of healthcare providers fighting in her corner at Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center

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COVID-19 Update: Positivity Rate of Tests in Watauga County Continue Rising

January 31, 2022 Positive COVID-19 tests continue to rise in the High Country due to the omicron variant. According to the latest data from AppHealthCare, 26% of all covid tests from January 16-22 returned a positive test, among the highest numbers reported in the area since the pandemic began. Over the last month, the positivity rate has increased from 6.3% (December 12-18) to 26% (January 16-22).  In the last five days, Watauga County has reported 628 new cases while Ashe County has reported 227 new cases and Alleghany County has reported 122 new cases. Since the pandemic began, AppHealthCare has reported 17,788 cumulative cases and 138 deaths in the three-county district. Ashe County has reported 75 deaths while Watauga County has reported 51 and Alleghany County has had 12 deaths from the virus.   By Nathan Ham

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AppHealthCare Releases Community Health Report for Watauga County

January 28, 2022 AppHealthCare announced on Wednesday that through a collaboration with numerous agencies as well as surveys and data collection, a community health report was put together for each of the three counties (Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany) in the AppHealthCare district. The report for each county is put together every three years. The Watauga County report was compiled through partnerships with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, the Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative, Appalachian District Board of Health and AppHealthCare. As part of the community health report, multiple factors are included in determining what the greatest needs and concerns are for the county. Several of those data points include household income, poverty level, food insecurity, unemployment data, community safety, affordable housing and mental/behavioral health. According to the report for Watauga County, the three biggest areas to focus community resources on are mental health, housing and family/social support systems.   By Nathan Ham

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COVID-19 Update: Two Additional Covid Clusters Reported in Watauga County and Over 600 Active Cases Reported in the Last Five Days

January 24, 2022 Over the last five days, AppHealthCare has reported 639 new COVID-19 cases in Watauga County as well as three new clusters, bringing the total to four active clusters or outbreaks within the county. According to the latest data provided by AppHealthCare, there have been 1,032 new cases within the last five days in the three-county region of Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties. In addition to the 639 cases in Watauga, there were 301 new cases in Ashe County and 92 new cases in Alleghany County. In last week’s update from AppHealthCare, there were COVID-19 clusters or outbreaks reported at the Hospitality House, the Foley Center and Glenbridge Health and Rehabilitation. This week there were two additional clusters reported, one within the women’s basketball program at Appalachian State and the other within the wrestling program at Appalachian State. There were 11 cases reported among App State wrestlers and six cases reported among women’s basketball players. Currently, there are two active cases at Glenbridge, bringing the total there to six cases. There are no active cases at the Hospitality House, leaving their current total at 13 cases.   By Nathan Ham

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COVID-19 Update: Over 500 Positive Cases Reported Last Week in Watauga County

January 17, 2022 The omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the High Country with 538 new cases reported in Watauga County last week according to the latest data provided from AppHealthCare. Over the same time period, 212 new cases were reported in Ashe County and 116 new cases were reported in Alleghany County. From January 2 through January 8, Watauga County experienced a positivity rate of 21.66%, a number that has climbed each week since December 5. AppHealthCare says that this is the highest number of cases and highest amount of community transmission that they have seen at any point during the pandemic. 69% of the positive cases were from unvaccinated individuals while 31% of the positive cases were from individuals that are considered fully vaccinated. To help contain the spread of COVID-19, AppHealthCare is offering free KN95 masks to anyone in the community while supplies last. People are encouraged to go by the AppHealthCare offices in Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga to receive a free mask until they run out of supplies.   By Nathan Ham

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COVID-19 Update: Testing Positivity Rate Climbs to Over 20% in Watauga County

January 10, 2022 The omicron variant of COVID-19 has brought the positivity rate to just over 20% in Watauga County, meaning that of all the COVID-19 tests that were conducted from December 26 to January 1, 20% of them were positive for the virus. According to the weekly COVID-19 update from AppHealth Care, from the end of October through the end of November, the positivity rate never got above 4.58%. As the omicron variant began to spread across the country, those numbers in Watauga County also began to climb. The positivity rate from November 28 through December 4 jumped to 7.48%. The following week, December 5 through December 11, the number dipped back to 5.20%. The next three weeks, however, saw the percentages climb significantly. From December 12 through December 18, the positivity rate was 9.93%. The following week (December 19 – December 25) the rate was 13.21% before peaking at 20.13% heading into the new calendar year.  By Nathan Ham

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One Year After COVID-19 Vaccines: Reflection and Thanks from AppHealthCare

December 29, 2021. The journey we have all been on since COVID-19 entered our lives almost two years ago has been a rollercoaster in what seems like constant ups, downs, twists and turns. As your local health department, we have strived to meet the daily challenges this pandemic has brought and meet the public health needs of the communities we serve. As we look back over the past year and wrap up 2021, we want to extend our gratitude to the many individuals, agencies, organizations and leaders in our community that have contributed in meaningful and impactful ways in the COVID-19 response efforts. This time last year, we were receiving shipments of COVID-19 vaccines and had just begun to vaccinate health care workers, along with our partners doing the same. Watauga County has made incredible progress this past year, with 55% of the total population fully vaccinated and 59% with at least one dose (data as of December 28, 2021), with over 23,500 doses administered by AppHealthCare thanks to so many who eagerly volunteered their time and energy to vaccinate the community.

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COVID-19 Update: Positive Cases on the Rise Again in the High Country

December 17, 2021. The Omicron variant of COVID-19 hasn’t shown up in the High Country yet, however positive cases for the virus have started climbing anyway. There are 68 active cases in Watauga County, 108 active cases in Ashe County and 77 active cases in Alleghany County. Nearly 400 people are currently in quarantine in the three-county district served by AppHealthCare. Deaths in the three-county area have now reached 115 with 65 of those in Ashe County, 43 in Watauga and seven in Alleghany.  There were 49 new cases reported between December 5 and December 11, and 80% of those cases were from unvaccinated individuals, according to data provided by AppHealthCare. As of now, 59% of Watauga County’s population is partially or fully vaccinated. In a news release today from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), health experts are warning that the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is expected to cause the greatest surge in COVID-19 infections to date in the coming months. They are urging people to either get vaccinated or get their booster shots to prepare for what is expected to be another COVID-19 surge.  By Nathan Ham

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Avery County Healthcare Leader Retiring After More Than Three Decades of Service


December 17, 2021. After working in healthcare in Avery County for more than 34 years, Carmen Lacey, President of Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (CMH), is retiring. Lacey began her career in 1987 as part of the first Pharmacy Technician Certification program at Sloop Memorial Hospital in Crossnore. While working in the Pharmacy Department she was inspired to pursue a career in nursing. “I saw what nursing really meant at Sloop through several role models — and determined that was what I wanted to do,” Lacey says. Within six months, she was a charge nurse, and eventually became the Assistant Director of Nursing. She worked there until Sloop and CMH came together in the new hospital in Linville in 1999. Five years later, CMH became part of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. Through all of this transition, Lacey rose in the ranks and managed several departments including the Medical Surgical Unit, The New Life Center, Emergency Department, and the Operating Room. She also served as Director of Nursing before being promoted to President of CMH in 2012. 

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New Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital Opening in Linville on November 15

November 5, 2021. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is proud to announce that its new, freestanding Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital (ARBH) will officially open its doors on November 15, 2021. “The most important component of this new hospital is providing services in a manner that promotes dignity to the patients and families we’re here to serve. Through our inpatient and outpatient services, our goal is to meet people where they are and for what they need at any given time,” said Stephanie Greer, President of Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health.  ARBH will follow a tiered opening schedule to ensure that patient needs are met every step of the way. 

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Open House and Hiring Event Happening on November 9 at the New Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital

November 2, 2021. A new, freestanding Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital (ARBH) will officially open its doors in November. ARBH’s unique approach provides a top-tier treatment experience for patients. The healing environment includes open areas with natural light and mountain views. Caregivers partner with patients to meet them where they are and provide a combination of coping skills and innovative approaches to therapy. Learn all about the new facility at apprhs.org/arbh. Open House: Community agencies are invited to tour the facility between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Learn about the physical environment, treatment modalities, and how ARBH can support and supplement the work of those agencies. 

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COVID-19 Update: Watauga Medical Center Currently Has 13 Hospitalized Patients, 11 of them are Unvaccinated

October 18, 2021. Positive case numbers in Watauga County have dropped in over the last three weeks, however, hospitalizations have remained steady at Watauga Medical Center, particularly among unvaccinated patients. According to Rob Hudspeth with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, there are currently 13 patients hospitalized from COVID-19 complications and 11 of the 13 are unvaccinated. The number was at 20 roughly two weeks ago and dropped to 15 at the end of last week, however, two patients died from COVID-19 complications on Sunday. Hudspeth said since last August, 70 people at Watauga Medical Center have died from COVID-19 and 64 of them were unvaccinated. “We are continuing to see COVID-19 cases. The workforce here is stressed. Over the last year, out of our 1,500 employees, 500 of them have turned over so we have replaced 500 positions in the last year. The healthcare workforce here locally is fatigued,” Hudspeth said. By Nathan Ham

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COVID-19 Update: Appalachian State Vaccination Rate Exceeds Rate for Watauga County by 12%; Pfizer Booster Community Clinic Scheduled for October 16

October 11, 2021. Appalachian State University students and staff members are continuing to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at a higher rate than the rest of Watauga County, according to the latest data from the university and AppHealthCare. “​​The vaccination rate of our students continues to rise and has increased to 60%. The vaccination rate of employees remains steady at 94%. With more than 13,000 of our faculty, staff and students fully vaccinated, the university’s overall vaccination rate is currently 64%, exceeding that of Watauga County, which is 52%,” said Appalachian State Chancellor, Sheri Everts. “As we near the halfway point in the semester, our primary COVID-19 data points are trending in a favorable direction. We remain vigilant in our mitigation efforts. The vaccine is the key to our success in managing the effects of COVID-19 on our campus, and it is what allows us to continue holding in-person classes and events.” By Nathan Ham

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AppHealthCare Requiring the COVID-19 Vaccine for Employees by October 31

October 5, 2021. On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, the AppHealthCare Board of Health, covering Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga Counties, approved a policy to require the COVID-19 vaccine for all AppHealthCare employees, contractors, students and volunteers. This policy will require staff to show proof of full vaccination by October 31, 2021. Any medical and/or religious exemptions to the policy must be submitted by October 1, 2021. The staff who have an approved exemption are required to participate in weekly COVID-19 screening testing and wear a mask. “The Board of Health took action to require the COVID-19 vaccine for AppHealthCare employees, contractors, students and volunteers because we know vaccinations are the best way to build a path out of this pandemic. As the local public health agency for our district, we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and are continuing to help prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death. We hope this action will encourage others to get vaccinated and for businesses, agencies and organizations to consider how they can encourage employees to get vaccinated. We are committed to AppHealthCare being a safe place for everyone in our community to seek services, and this vaccine requirement demonstrates our ongoing commitment to public health and safety,” stated David Triplett, Chairman of the AppHealthCare Board of Health.

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New Pregnancy Care and Childbirth Options at AppFamily Medicine

October 4, 2021. In the High Country, access to medical specialists has been on the rise. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) has recently added or enhanced services such as cardiology, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, and much more. It’s a promising development. But as a result, the true role of the family medicine (or primary care) provider may not be fully understood in today’s highly-specialized and compartmentalized view of healthcare. AppFamily Medicine aims to educate the community about their approach to treating the whole person and the whole family throughout every stage of life. And they are taking steps to create a true family practice from birth through childhood and throughout adult life. They established the practice and added full-service pediatric care and a same-day/walk-in clinic. The next phase of their approach is to create a prenatal clinic and deliver babies at Watauga Medical Center.

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COVID-19 Update: Seven Active Coronavirus Clusters in Watauga County; Student Vaccinations Continue to Increase at App State

October 1, 2021. While the rate of positivity among COVID-19 testing has dropped from 11.1% at the end of August to 4.25% at the end of September, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is still leading to high transmission rates in Watauga County. There are currently seven active COVID-19 clusters in the county, according to the latest data from AppHealthCare. Active clusters are at the Watauga County Detention Center (seven cases), Thunder Hill Residence Hall (12 cases), Cottages of Boone (nine cases), The Standard (eight cases) and Hospitality House (seven cases) as well as 10 members each of the Appalachian State baseball team and Appalachian State wrestling team. Currently, there are 91 active cases in Watauga County, 43 active cases in Ashe County and 28 active cases in Alleghany County. There are 89 people in quarantine in Watauga County, 93 people in quarantine in Ashe County and 28 people in quarantine in Alleghany County. A total of 100 people in the three-county district served by AppHealthCare have died from COVID-19 complications since the pandemic started in March of 2020. By Nathan Ham

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A Legacy of Giving: Major Gift to Watauga Medical Center in Memory of Dr. Al Petti

September 28, 2021. When Chris Petti visited her parents’ Avery County cabin as a teen, she didn’t realize just how much the North Carolina mountains would impact her. Nor could she foresee how she and her husband, Dr. Al Petti, would make their own impact on the community. Before Dr. Petti passed away in 2019 Chris remembers a friend saying, “There are no pockets in coffins. You can’t take it with you, so spread the good around.” And that’s what the Pettis spent more than 40 years doing in the High Country. At the pinnacle of a lifetime of philanthropy, Chris is still living by the friend’s advice today, but now she says, “is the time to do bigger and better things.” Because Dr. Petti spent many years as an innovative orthopedic surgeon, Chris has chosen to honor his legacy with a $1 million gift to the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation toward a new, ultramodern orthopedic program at Watauga Medical Center. A part of the orthopedic expansion project will bear the Petti name as a tribute to their history of medical excellence and community advancement.

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COVID-19 Update: Town of Boone Modifies Mask Ordinance for Businesses that Offer Indoor Fitness and Exercising

September 17, 2021. The Town of Boone issued a modification to its mask ordinance on September 17 that allows for people inside local gyms, fitness centers and the recreation complex to not have to wear a mask while working out. The amendment to the town’s ordinance states that individuals do not have to wear a mask if they are maintaining 10 feet of social distance from all participants at all times or can provide proof of vaccination and maintain six feet of social distance from all other participants. Face coverings will still be required in areas such as lobbies, hallways and any areas where people are not actively engaged in athletic or physical activities. Active COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the High Country. As of Friday morning, there were 129 active cases in Watauga County with 120 people in quarantine. Ashe County reported 85 active cases with 133 people in quarantine and Alleghany County reported 75 active cases with 77 people in quarantine.  By Nathan Ham

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Speakers at COVID-19 Care Vigil at Watauga Medical Center Thursday Morning Encourage Everyone to Get Vaccinated

September 2, 2021. Hospital doctors, nurses and staff members gathered outside of Watauga Medical Center on Thursday morning to speak to community members about the dire conditions that exist for COVID-19 patients and encourage everyone to get vaccinated to fight this terrible virus. The care vigil was also live-streamed on Facebook for those that could not be there or want to watch at a later time. Speakers at the event included Dr. Lisa Kaufmann (Inpatient Physician Group), Dr. Kevin Wolfe (Pulmonologist), Dr. Beverly Womack (AppFamily Medicine), Dr. Jennifer Nelson (Emergency Department), Jimmy Phillips (Respiratory Therapist), Amy Hempfling (Nurse Leader) and Melanie Childers (Spiritual Care). Speakers talked about not only the struggles that patients go through dealing with the illness but also how hard it is on them personally to witness people having such a hard time battling COVID-19.   By Nathan Ham

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Virtual Town Hall on Building Healthier Rural Communities to Feature ARHS President/CEO Chuck Mantooth

August 25, 2021. A special virtual town hall on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. will include Chuck Mantooth, the President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. The topic of discussion will be what it takes to build healthier rural communities. Featured guests alongside Mantooth will be Dr. Jonathan Snyder, the Chief Medical Officer at Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin, Dr. Roxie Wells, President of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Healthcare, and Brandy Bynum Dawson, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at the NC Rural Center. The town hall will be moderated by Dr. Nisha Mehta, a physician, speaker and writer from Charlotte. The town hall, hosted by the North Carolina Healthcare Association, will allow listeners to learn about some of the challenges rural hospitals face and the opportunities ahead to continue improving rural healthcare.  By Nathan Ham

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Active COVID-19 Cases Climbing in Watauga County; AppHealthCare and Appalachian State University Urge People to Get Vaccinated

July 21, 2021. After dropping all the way down to zero active COVID-19 cases in Watauga County, positive cases are showing up once again with 18 active cases currently in the county as of today. There are 18 others being actively monitored in the county. Ashe County currently has eight active cases with six others being monitored and Alleghany has two active cases with one other person being monitored. AppHealthCare is encouraging anyone that hasn’t been vaccinated yet to schedule an appointment. They are offering the vaccine at any of their three health care clinics in Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga counties. To schedule an appointment in Alleghany County, call 336-372-5641. To schedule an appointment in Ashe County, call 336-246-9449 or to schedule an appointment in Watauga County call 828-264-4995. You can also choose to drop by for a walk-in appointment from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the three clinic locations. There may be a wait time for walk-in patients. By Nathan Ham

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AppHealthCare COVID-19 Update: Nearly Half of Watauga County Residents are Fully Vaccinated

June 11, 2021 Many things come to mind when the names Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer are spoken – savvy business acumen, dedication to their faith community, as well as support for the arts, women’s causes, animal welfare, higher education and more. Especially in the High Country, the Schaefer family name evokes gratitude for the incredible philanthropy, support and wisdom they give to their community. The Schaefers have been great friends to Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) throughout the years. They both recently experienced significant health challenges and turned to ARHS to walk with them through their journey of healing.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month; Help is a Phone Call Away

May 24, 2021 One in four American adults are affected by a mental illness each year (source), yet only about half of those people are treated for it. Significant barriers include shortage of mental health (also called behavioral health) professionals and access to care. Other obstacles include fear of embarrassment, affordability, lack of transportation, and apathy (source). Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is working to mitigate the shortage of resources with the opening of a free-standing 27-bed psychiatric hospital in the fall of 2021. The Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital will accept adults ages 18-64 by referral or walk-in. The Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health (ARBH) team of therapists and providers offer multiple resources for treating mild to severe mental health disorders in the High Country.

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App State, Samaritan’s Purse Have Traveling Protocol in Place to Prevent Bringing Coronavirus to the High Country

February 28, 2020 People probably wouldn’t think about small towns such as Boone when it comes to the 2019-nCoV Coronavirus entering the community. However, with Appalachian State University offering an exchange program to Wenzhou University in China and the numerous natural disasters that Samaritan’s Purse travels to supplying aid and comfort, it suddenly becomes something that will cross your mind. Both App State and Samaritan’s Purse have been well ahead of the curve in avoiding international contact in locations where the Coronavirus has been spreading. “We suspended study abroad programs in China earlier this semester and the students who came back to the U.S. have been here for several weeks. While the Appalachian Community currently faces very little risk, compassion is key as many people on our campus and beyond have loved ones in areas of far greater concern,” said Megan Hayes, Associate Vice-Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer at Appalachian State.   By Nathan Ham

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