COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga – July 9, 2020

Last Updated on July 10, 2020 3:26 pm

The information below is provided by AppHealthCare

COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County

Situation Update for June 29 through July 5, 2020

We continue to see an increase in new cases for Watauga County. Over half (53%) of the confirmed Watauga County cases have occurred within the past two weeks. Among newly confirmed cases, there is
not a single event or location to be the cause of the increase. There have been multiple incidences of exposure identified by people traveling, attending social gatherings or living or working in close
proximity to others. However, community transmission is occurring locally which means there is not always an identified source of exposure for the cases. Once a positive case is identified, we highly encourage close contacts of that individual to get tested. This has led to more confirmed positives, including identifying individuals who have been asymptomatic.

“This virus remains with us and will for the foreseeable future so we encourage people to take actions to protect themselves and loved ones. Show your love for yourself and others and practice the 3Ws
anytime you leave your house – wear a cloth face covering, wait 6 feet from others and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. If we all do these things, we have the power to slow the spread and lessen the impact in our community. This is an uncertain and stressful time for our community so we encourage everyone to take care of yourself, friends, family and neighbors. We have a strong community and will continue to rely on that strength to weather this storm,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.

Key points from this week:

● NC DHHS publishes county specific data for race, ethnicity, and gender. This report highlights the majority (80%) of Watauga County confirmed cases have been among those who are 49 years and younger. This data is updated regularly and can be found on NC DHHS’s website .
○ 45% of cases are between 18-24 years of age
○ 33% of cases are between 25-49 years of age
● We are continuing to work to increase testing opportunities for the community.
○ Planning for proactive staff testing continues in locations that have opted-in to that service. They include long term care facilities, shelters, local businesses with frontline workers, healthcare providers, law enforcement, and first responders, etc.
○ The local testing strategy includes the need to increase availability of testing sites and capacity, along with community education efforts to alert individuals about who should be tested. In addition, NC DHHS Find My Testing Place and Check My Symptoms provide linkages to local testing locations.
○ Response based testing also continues. These events are intended to focus on areas where there is potential for further spread, a cluster of cases, or an outbreak. Data gathered in the case investigation informs the need for response based testing.
○ A community based testing event is being actively planned for July to respond to the fact that cases have increased the past three weeks. This will provide additional data to further inform testing strategies in the future. AppHealthCare will be working with local partners to communicate and promote this event next week.

● PPE (personal protective equipment) levels remain stable.
● Turn-around times for testing is 2-7 days, with most tests resulting between 5-7 days. This is concerning. We have noticed there is a delay in testing results which is likely due to increased volume at the labs and a shortage of the reagent (material) needed to process the results which has been outlined as a national challenge to overcome. NC DHHS continues to communicate about this challenge and plan for additional strategies to assist local communities.
● NC DHHS issued updated guidance that included steps for people after they receive a COVID-19
test. What should someone do while waiting for test results, what if the test is negative or positive, prevention measures and home care if someone is sick are included in this guidance and can be found here .
● Additional case investigators are being recruited currently to add to the team of case investigators and contact tracers in place.
● Outreach continues to be an important part of our collective community strategy to address
○ Additional signage has been placed downtown Boone to promote the Show Your Love campaign and the 3 W’s key messages with the partnership between the Boone Sunrise Rotary Club, Town of Boone, and Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.
○ A bulk order of reusable cloth face coverings have been ordered by AppHealthCare to be distributed in the community soon, and local municipalities report sourcing additional
face masks and hand sanitizing stations for distribution.
○ Local long term care, assisted living and group home facilities have been invited to participate in a regional discussion about COVID-19, testing, prevention, and control measures next week. We hope this will provide an opportunity to provide additional best practices and peer learning.

Data for Watauga County
An important note about data context: The graphs below show the available data. Please carefully read the descriptions below the graph to understand the data limitations. The most current data is available on the AppHealthCare dashboard , as the data below is past data trended.

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