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BOONE — AppHealthCare has provided a COVID-19 update as the health department says it continues to “circulate and even increase over the past few weeks in key statewide metrics like hospitalizations, COVID-19 like illness in the Emergency Departments and COVID-19 particles found in wastewater.”

According to AppHealthCare, Watauga County is currently at a medium COVID-19 Community Level as defined by the CDC, which measures the impact of COVID-19 on health and healthcare systems. A medium level means community members may need to take more precautions to prevent illness and protect themselves and others from severe outcomes like hospitalization and death, AppHealthCare stated.

The following are tips from AppHealthCare to help prevent a COVID-19 infection.

  • Stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters. More Information on COVID-19 vaccines can be found on AppHealthCare’s website.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms. Don’t visit the Emergency Department for just testing.
  • Stay home if you’re sick – except to get medical care. This helps limit potential exposure to others.
  • If you test positive, seek treatment options as soon as you can to lower your chance of hospitalization and severe outcomes. As soon as you feel sick, it’s time to get tested and treated. That’s because treatments work best if you start them soon after you notice symptoms of COVID-19. Remember, your first symptoms may be a cough, headache, or sore throat—and they may even be mild. The key is: don’t wait. Locate Test to Treat options near you by visiting the NC DHHS website.
  • Wear a mask if you test positive for COVID-19 or have COVID-19-like symptoms. People may choose to wear a mask at any time.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 33,393 Watauga County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — or about 59% of the population. Approximately 31,440 Watauga County residents have been vaccinated with at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine — or about 56% of the population.

According to NCDHHS, 18,967 — or 34% of the population — has received either a booster shot or an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

As of June 17, Watauga Medical Center had four patients in the COVID-19 unit, according to Senior Vice President for System Advancement at ARHS Rob Hudspeth.

Hudspeth also said that they are continuing to monitor COVID-19 in the community closely, but the situation is better than it was a year ago.

Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccine Update for Children 6 months to 4 years old

On June 17, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 to include use in children down to 6 months of age.

For the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, the FDA amended the emergency use authorization to include use of the vaccine in individuals 6 months through 17 years of age. The vaccine had been authorized for use in adults 18 years of age and older, according to the FDA.

For the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, the FDA amended the EUA to include use of the vaccine in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age. The vaccine had been authorized for use in individuals 5 years of age and older, according to the FDA.

“Many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for younger children and this action will help protect those down to 6 months of age. As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D, in a press release. “Those trusted with the care of children can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these COVID-19 vaccines and can be assured that the agency was thorough in its evaluation of the data.”

The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of two doses, one month apart, to individuals 6 months through 17 years of age. The vaccine is also authorized to provide a third primary series dose at least one month following the second dose for individuals in this age group who have been determined to have certain kinds of immunocompromise.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a primary series of three doses in which the initial two doses are administered three weeks apart followed by a third dose administered at least eight weeks after the second dose in individuals 6 months through 4 years of age.

AppHealthCare is planning to extend clinic hours until 6 p.m. for vaccine administration for the 6-month-old to 4-year-old age group at the Watauga location at 126 Poplar Grove Connector in Boone on June 23 and June 30. Appointments can be made by calling (828) 795-1970. Appointment scheduling is available in Spanish by calling (828) 795-1970 and pressing 1.

“We encourage parents and caregivers to ask questions about the vaccines and seek information from reputable sources like the CDC, NCDHHS or their child’s pediatrician or health care provider to make the most informed decision for their child’s health,” said Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare Health Director, in a press release.

Blue Ridge Pediatrics will also be able to administer the vaccine for this age group, according to AppHealthCare. The doctor’s office is planning to extend COVID vaccine clinic hours on June 21 until 7:30 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 24.

This will be available to existing patients and by appointment only in the Boone office. Appointments will be available starting on Monday morning, June 20, as long as the CDC has finalized their recommendation and can be made by calling (828) 262-0100.

“Parents have been waiting since the start of the pandemic for the chance to protect their youngest children against COVID. That time is almost here. Once the CDC offers their formal recommendation, we will continue to work hard to make these vaccines available to our patients,” Dr. Scott St. Clair, Blue Ridge Pediatrics, said in a press release.

More information about COViD-19 vaccines can be found at www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-vaccinations or by contacting a health care provider or call the COVID-19 Call Center at (828) 795-1970.

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