AppHealthCare COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County August 28, 2020

Published Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 9:29 am

This document is intended to provide a regular update on the local response to COVID-19 in our

communities and timely, trended data related to COVID-19. This report will be published on Fridays.

Situation Update

Watauga County continues to see an increase in new cases. Even though we are not seeing a large spike

in cases, the number of newly identified and active cases remains higher than what we want to see. Our

case trends have continued to increase with the largest percentage of cases in the 18-24 old age group.

Of the newly identified cases for this week, we are continuing to see the same trend with cases exposed

due to close contact with others through living or working closely with others or attending social

gatherings.

“We all have the power to slow the spread of COVID-19 and this can be done by practicing the 3Ws,

avoiding large gatherings and maintaining good hygiene practices. Wear a cloth face covering anytime

you will be around others who are not in your household or living space, wash your hands regularly or

use hand sanitizer and wait at least 6 feet from others. This virus is highly contagious and sometimes

people can spread the virus without realizing it because they have mild or no symptoms at all. These

actions help protect everyone in our community and helps make sure we have the healthcare system

capacity that we all depend on,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.

Key Points

● We continue case investigation and contact tracing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If

you receive a call from a member of our case investigation or contact tracing team, we urge you

to cooperate and provide information that will help us conduct response efforts.

● Our case trends have continued to increase with the largest percentage of cases in the 18-24 old

age group.

● We are continuing to work closely with our University partners and provide public health

guidance and recommendations to ensure our response efforts are coordinated. Every Monday

through Friday, we meet with App State to review confirmed cases and outline a plan of action

to care for those students who need to be in isolation or quarantine. There are protocols in

place to continue surveillance of cases to identify response testing needed. Collaboration

continues on the weekends between App State and the AppHealthCare case investigation team.

App State has a dedicated website that highlights guidance, regular updates and data for the

Appalachian community.

● We are continuing to work with Watauga County Schools as they started a new school year this

week. We are continuing to provide public health information to inform their decisions about

school operations.

● We are continuing to work to increase testing opportunities for the community. Planning for

proactive testing for staff in locations that have opted-in to that service continues. Also, we are

conducting response based testing when data gathered in the case investigation of a positive

case informs the need to conduct broader testing. These response based testing events are

intended to focus on areas where there is potential for further spread, a cluster of cases, or an

outbreak.

● PPE (personal protective equipment) levels remain stable in most areas.

● Turnaround times for testing have improved with most tests resulting around 2-4 days. NC DHHS

now provides data on testing turnaround times. This data is updated daily and can be found

here .

● We have posted additional positions to assist with COVID-19 response efforts to respond to the

increased demand due to increased cases. More information about those positions can be found

here .

● Outreach continues to be an important part of our collective community strategy to address

COVID-19. Regular meetings take place with community partners to discuss the current situation

in the county, strategize areas for growth and improvement and provide a time for questions

and answers.

Outbreaks & Clusters

Data is provided for outbreaks and clusters that are active and ongoing. The number of cases are current

at the release of this report. As we conduct outbreak investigations, the numbers included in this report

are subject to change.

An outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory confirmed cases. A cluster is defined as a minimum of

five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic

linkage between cases. An outbreak or cluster is considered over if 28 days have passed after the latest

date of symptom onset in a symptomatic person or first date of specimen collection from the most

recent asymptomatic person, whichever is later.

Additional information on the definitions of outbreaks and clusters is provided by the North Carolina

Department of Health & Human Services.

 

Last week App State announced a cluster of cases associated with the football team. By proactively

testing these athletes, App State Athletics has been able to identify opportunities for isolating positive

cases and quarantining others who have been exposed. The last positive case result was 8/20/2020.

Routine testing continues through App State Athletics to continue identifying early any positive cases. In

addition, App State Student Health Services provides testing for students each weekday. The university

is offering free COVID-19 tests for App State students, faculty and staff at a “pop-up” testing event on

Saturday, Aug. 29, from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the Rivers Street Parking Deck. App State has a dedicated

website that has guidance, regular updates and data for the Appalachian community.

Mitigation and Response Efforts

● Ongoing testing continues to monitor the health of residents in skilled nursing facilities

● Educational outreach on COVID-19 prevention with these facilities

● Positive cases are separated from others to allow for safe isolation

● Ongoing daily health monitoring is occurring at the facilities

● Monitoring of positive cases continues with public health staff

● App State and AppHealthCare review cases daily to ensure that staff and students get the

support they need to safely isolate or quarantine and to support contact tracing efforts by public

health staff

● Ongoing messaging continues from App State to campus about prevention measures and

enforcement

Demographic Data from NC DHHS as of August 28th

NC DHHS updates this data daily and can be found on NC DHHS’s website .

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